location, location, location

castle pic I’ve just finished writing an entire scene and I stop to re-read it. As I read, I become more and more puzzled. Why? Because there is no location! I have this great conversation taking place between three characters and I see no clue as to where they are when they are talking. I’ve completely forgotten to address their location.

The photo today is from my collection of castles. I’ve always loved castles. If I could, I’d put all my characters in castles. Unfortunately, I’m not writing in a genre where castles make sense as a location. But my characters do live somewhere. They have houses. They interact at work or play in other locations. I often see the interactions in my head and forget to write down the location and have to go back and add in those details. Without a location, the characters are not grounded. Their conversation may be fascinating, but without that grounding they are up there floating around in the ether. Their words are without the weight they should have if they were in a place, feet planted firmly. Their actions are taking place in empty space.

Describing a location can add so much to the scene, giving it a texture, a flavor that tells the reader even more about the characters. A bright sunny kitchen, a dark and dusty cellar, a lush lawn, a bustling city street, a town square–each of these evokes a particular mood before the characters even appear. How the conversation continues in that mood, or jarringly introduces another mood entirely, provides some of the drama of the scene. Choosing the location is important. Just plunking the characters down anywhere willy-nilly, is doing them and the story a disservice.

At some point, I am going to put a character in a castle, just for the fun of it. In fact, that might be the beginning of a new story…the castle setting. Hmm.

Do you find that location guides your dialogue or the other way round? Do you have to struggle to get details of location into your story? I’d be interested to hear how other writers deal with location.

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