Friday, May 31, 2013

So, Where Are We?

Monet's Home

One of the sessions at the writers conference I attended in April dealt with making sure your stories and creative nonfiction gave the reader a sense of place

It's not enough to say that you visited Monet's home in Giverny, France. You need to add enough details to give the reader a clear picture of where the famed artist's home is. Let them feel the surroundings as the person who makes a visit there would. 

Add sensory details. What did the air feel like, smell like? For me, there is a difference in the way the air feels on humid days versus dry ones, clear days versus stormy. If the gardens were in full bloom, was the air scented with the aroma given by the flowers? What about sounds? Bees buzzing, leaves rustling in the breeze? 

Beyond the sensory details of the immediate area, you can add something about the area where the home is situated. Show the reader whether it is surrounded by other homes, businesses etc. Let them feel what Giverny itself is like. 

Family together on a beach
A family on a beach

Look at this picture. Write a paragraph that gives the reader a sense of place. It's obviously a beach, but what about the kind of beach it is. Is it a private one or public? What kind of people inhabit the beach? What kind of sealife or animals are found there? Climate? Businesses around the area? Wealthy or poverty area? Give the reader an idea of the surroundings as well as what this family is doing. Add sensory details. You don't want to write sentence after sentence of pure descritpion, however. Intersperse it in the narrative so that the reader absorbs it unknowingly. 

When you tell a story, it's the little extras like giving a sense of place that makes your writing better than average. Often the writer knows the place in their mind so well that they forget the reader does not. Let them see what you already know. 

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