Capture Place in Your Writing

April 16, 2018

Many writers focus on character or plot, and they should. They should also consider giving their readers a real sense of place the characters occupy and the plot evolves. One only has to think about the house in  Psycho to realize how powerful place can be in a story.

Here are some ideas to help you capture place in your writing.

  • Observe buildings, landscapes, entertainment venues, etc. Take pictures, note your first impressions/feelings about the place, consider why the place was constructed as it was, think about why it is the way it is currently.
  • Research places you’ve heard of but not yet visited. Books (don’t overlook the bibliographies in those books), brochures (see what the marketing people thought would entice visitors), people (memoirs reveal things not found anywhere else), and, of course, the Internet are all good research options. Look for floor plans, what was going on in the community/society when the place was built or designed, what changes were made over time.
  • Spend some time in the place. Go there and look for things that are original to the place, things that may have been updated/upgraded, and what was once there but is now gone.
  • Tap into your creativity and imagine who enjoyed the place, what they did there, when they were there, where they came from (and where they went), why they chose to be there, and how that place impacted their lives.
  • Allow yourself to notice the little things that can make a big difference. Is the landscape neglected or kept with obvious pride? Are the windows in the building clean? Open? Closed? Broken? What sounds do you hear? Children laughing? Music? Birds? Barking dogs? Creaking floors? How do you describe furnishings–plush and homey or smooth and institutional? Well, you get the idea.

Place can be a very important part of your story. Give your reader the opportunity to be there with you. Let your reader see and feel what you do. Happy writing!

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Inspiration is Everywhere

April 4, 2018

Creative people rely on finding inspiration to help them expand their creativity. Creative people also run the risk of being too hard on themselves if they don’t find inspiration when they’re looking for it. And that’s the lesson--stop looking for inspiration and start allowing it to show itself to you. Here are some ideas to help you.

  • Be open to the various gifts of inspiration that surround you every day. Some of them reside within you. Some of them appear unexpectedly around you. For example, a song may trigger a memory of someone you hadn’t thought of in years and that memory may expand beyond the person into something you did with that person, a gift you gave or received from that person, or even a secret you shared with that person.
  • Give yourself permission to join bits and pieces from things that inspire you. For example, you may start with the personality of one friend and combine it with the appearance of another to create a totally new character. Add the career of a third person and your character becomes even more inspired.
  • Take a memory and write it out in detail. Include descriptions, facts, assumptions, all you can remember about the people involved, location, weather, feelings, fears, joys, etc. Then sort through what you wrote and use what works in your story. Save what doesn’t work in that particular story for use in another.
  • Appreciate the people and places you’ve previously ignored or discounted. Maybe those people are not as dull as you originally thought. Maybe something exciting happened in that old post office building a hundred years ago. Most people and places can offer something inspiring if you dig a little deeper and give them a chance. Maybe you’re the one with something to offer that few people know about that you can use in your writing.
  • Be honest about what you’re writing. Not every book deserves to be written, or at least shouldn’t be written by you. I’m a teacher. Corporations hired me to teach needle arts to their employees after hours. School districts hired me to teach needle arts in adult education programs. I learned that I enjoyed teaching and my students seemed to enjoy learning. I expanded into teaching writing, speaking, communication, business, and management at colleges (graduate and undergraduate courses at both private and public universities).  I even wrote and reviewed college textbooks. But as much as I love teaching, I didn’t love writing textbooks. How about you? What book should you be writing and what book should you stay away from?

I hope these ideas help you recognize inspiration when it comes to you. There is not another person in this world who sees things exactly as you do and only you can write what you write.  I hope you enjoy the journey. Happy writing!