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 inĀ  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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How You Think Impacts How You Write

January 17, 2017

We’re two weeks into the new year, and it’s a good time to think about how we think. Why? Because our thinking impacts our writing.

Here are some things you might want to consider as you write this year.

  • Realize that people are your greatest resource and are available all around you. People write. People create. People examine. People research. We tend to look for people with common interests, common goals, common ideals. In other words, we like to hang out with people who validate us. How does staying in your comfort zone impact your writing? It helps you determine whether you’re challenging yourself enough.
  • Look for things in others that you don’t like. No one can be all things to you, yet relationships last for years. How can that be? When you discover something about another person you don’t like, try to figure out why you still work on your relationship with that person. How does that impact your writing? It helps you create more interesting characters and highlight differences in them.
  • Understand you can never change someone else. People change and they change every day, but they change when they want to, not because someone else wants them to. Look at your own life. You’ve made changes along the way, and you made them when you saw a benefit to making them. How does understanding that impact your writing? It helps you determine your writing schedule and goals. It helps you organize your writing and decide what to include and what to save for the next piece you write. It helps you motivate your characters or change story line.
  • Appreciate that people don’t like to be ordered around, but rather prefer to participate. Granted, there’s a place for authority and orders, but you get better commitment and “buy-in” when you invite or ask people to join you. How does this impact your writing? It can help you in your research, in your time commitments that take you away from writing, and even in your plot and characters.
  • Know that confrontation can be good. Conflict shows something isn’t right and needs attention. Can you think of any engaging story that doesn’t have confrontation or conflict of some type? That question should be enough to show you how conflict can help your writing.
  • Recognize that everything has a beginning and an ending. Today started and will end. This week started and will end. And so it goes with this month and this year. Your stories begin and end. Your activities begin and end. That’s not to say things don’t repeat, but each repetition differs a little from what occurred previously. How does recognizing beginning and endings help your writing? You can use beginnings and endings to map out chapters, character development, writing schedules, research options–everything!

I hope this list of ideas helps you keep up your writing for the new year. Remember, only you can write what you write because you are the only one who thinks exactly the way you do. Happy writing!


Writers Need Sources

September 23, 2015

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you’ll need content. Since you can’t know everything about everything, you’ll need to rely on sources to help you get that content.

You might start your research by reading books, articles, blogs, emails, or other printed material. However, your most interesting (and useful) information will come from people.

So, how do you find the people you should interview? They’re everywhere, but it’s up to you to be judicious in deciding who you’ll trust as a source. Colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, friends, family, fellow members of organizations are all possibilities. You might even locate an expert by researching directories of professions, associations, and universities.

What should you do when you find someone you’d like to interview? Try emailing them. Try phoning them. Try making an appointment to see them.

Remember that you’re looking for first-hand information, experiences, and anecdotes based on education, work, interests, hobbies, or even some event a source witnessed. The main thing is your source must be willing to share, or you won’t be able to use the information in your writing.

When I was writing articles, I recorded all of my interviews. I always told the source that I was recording the interview and I was doing it to assure I got the information and any quotes accurate–a protection for both the source and for me.

Speaking of quotes, be aware readers don’t particularly like to read a lot of direct quotes from sources. Use your writing skills and paraphrase, but make sure your paraphrase is accurate.

Other cautions to be aware of are:

  • Verify the credentials of your expert. Sometimes people aren’t as they project themselves, but it’s your credibility (as writer) that’s at risk if you haven’t checked out your source.
  • Appreciate the sources offering time and information, but avoid promising to use the information (you’ll want to verify its accuracy if you can before using it).
  • Be careful about sharing the overall gist (favorable or unfavorable to a specific viewpoint) of the book/article. You may change your mind as you learn more about your subject matter. If asked specifically about the viewpoint, simply say the book will reflect the information you get during your research.
  • Keep any promises you do make to the source. If you offer to send a copy of your book (or article), make sure you do just that.

Finding and working with sources can be some of the most fun you’ll have as a writer. FInd a topic that interests you. FInd people who can help you learn more about it. Enjoy the journey. Happy writing!