We are all products of the places we have lived. The way we understand the meaning of community, the languages we speak and the customs and rituals we partake in… even the way the seasons impact our mood. All of these things contribute to who we are, and yet, when we write fiction, it’s easy to forget to communicate all these nuances of place to our readers. We often have a broad sense of where our story is unfolding, but rarely take the time to reflect on the intricacies of a place in our writing.
Bring to mind a story or novel you are currently working on. Then answer as many of these questions as you can. You may not include the direct answers in your piece, but hopefully they will help you texturize your fictional place with details that bring the setting to life.
What’s the population?
What kind of trees grow here?
What do people who live here do for a living?
What does a teenager living here dream of?
What sounds drift in through the open window as your main character is falling asleep?
How cold does it get in the winter?
What does the summer wind smell like?
What’s the first sign of spring?
What artifacts from past inhabitants might be buried here?
Is there a gathering spot in the town/city center? If so, what does it look/sound/smell like?
Where does the morning sun first cast its rays?
How would you describe nighttime in this place?
What animals live here? Are there raccoons living among the city’s water lines? Scorpions in the driftwood?
Where can one go for the best view in town (city)?
Is this place famous (or infamous) for anything?
For inspiration, check out "Twenty-Third"
by PalmLeaf, who writes answers to these questions as well as a paragraph, and "heartache"
by efflorescence, who keeps her answers to herself but allows readers to sense her rich knowledge of setting through her paragraph response.