Thursday, April 18, 2013


Before I go to my word of the day, I first want to acknowledge and send healing light and love to a special place, Boston, and everyone around our country/world who has had their lives changed by the Boston Marathon bombs.  My prayers and thoughts are sent out to you each and every day.

Place is a word that can have many meanings, especially if you’re a writer. Today I’m writing about how “Place” can actually be a “character” in a novel/story. The “place” can be so vital to getting across the “feeling” of a story that literally, the story will not go on without it. Place can also show an emotional change in the story: the grayness of a city building wall or the stench of a blind alley might evoke depression or fear. My work in progress is set in London (for the most part) and I try to imbue each scene with some trigger that will keep readers in the “London” frame of mind. This isn’t easy as everyone has their own versions of London either from visits, films, or books. But there are basic triggers you can use, like the names of pubs, using the word “pub,” itself, or cream teas. Mentioning the Thames River or hearing “Big Ben” booming in the distance or writing about a double decker bus full of tourists almost careening into the protagonist can all add atmosphere to your story. Setting a scene near the Ferris Wheel, or the Tower Bridge, or Buckingham Palace, all of these are “triggers” that can be used to enhance a scene and remind a reader of where they are. Also, the lack of well known triggers can also work if used correctly.

Example: London was no longer a city Celia recognized. She had been here several times and knew how to find the stores for her book signings, to visit the Tate or British museums, to play tourist and see the Tower or Buckingham Palace. But she had no idea where he took her now. They spent the afternoon turning a hundred times on a hundred different streets and he didn’t use the subway or a bus once. This was a London she had never seen.

What triggers do you use to set a place in your readers minds? How do you use “Place” as a character, to evoke emotion or a sense of a scene?

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  1. That's one thing I've never really considered....the place as a character. Makes perfect sense, though! Great post :)

  2. Hi Lisa,

    The place, the ambience does indeed enhance a place as a tangible character. I like to write in such a way that not only does it convey the place, I become the place. Your words are thoughtful and provoking. Incidentally, I have walked by the pub in your photo.

    I want to note your healing light thoughts to the people of Boston. I have no words to convey my horror over such atrocity.

    In peace and hope,


    1. How great you've walked by this pub! I wish I had, and gone in for a brew! Thank you for your words about Boston. Now, a small town in Texas neighbor to where I lived for 18 years had a fertilizer plant blow up. So many lives will be touched forever by this as everyone knows everyone there. We would go there quite often for the great food and fun shops... I hate to think of their pain right now.

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