Monday, November 17, 2014

A Sense of Place

I remember reading about other countries and thinking I'd love to go visit them someday. Greece. France. Australia. Italy. Scotland. And so many more. The novels I read gave me a sense of these places I might never have had. While I love to travel I don't get to do it as often as I like. We've been in almost all the states, but a handful, so it is my hope that someday I will have seen them all. But the magic of those places first reached me in books.

As a novelist we try to make the "place" in the story as much a character as the people. The best novels are the ones that put us "in" the story. We hear our footsteps echo on the stone floors of the castle. We smell the earthy smell of cool stone. We can dream ourselves into the story if we can visualize where the story is taking place.

Many authors write about places they have never been. Through the internet and research, as well as interviews we can get a sense of where we want the story to take place. It's not always obvious where the best place will be. There have been times I did not see where my characters were located. But I did hear their dialog, feel their conflict, and eventually the fog cleared and I could see in my mind where they were.

My novels take place in my home town. But my mother was from Arkansas and her stories brought it to life for me. My first published story was about a small southern town much like where she grew up. She told me I captured it very well and brought back memories for her. That's what all authors hope for - a story that resonates with readers. It might be the "place," "the time," "feelings," "shared experiences," ANYTHING. With luck - Everything.

Grandmother used to always tell me to walk in someone else's shoes so I could understand what they feel. It's not always easy to do, especially with other cultures. But some things cross cultures - family for one. While our traditions and language may differ from the French for example, we both cherish our families. We love our countries, our food, our music. So, a story with all these elements will appeal anywhere. The key is to put the reader there. Wherever "there" may be.  

 Write on, my friends.
Born and raised in Kansas, Bonnie Tharp spent much of her formative years in her grandmother’s kitchen as official taste tester. Although not much of a chef herself, she enjoys good food and believes all the best discussions happen at the kitchen table.
Bonnie is the author of Patchwork Family, published in March 2014 by Belle Bridge Books. It’s the sequel to 2010’s Feisty Family Values, a novel of women’s contemporary fiction.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Bonnie,

A sense of place--setting if you will--is an important component in any piece of writing. Exotic settings are wonderful and I appreciate them as I don't get to travel very often. However, a sense of home and family as you observe cross all cultures.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Thanks for the comment Jacqui.

Susan Oleksiw said...

"The key is to put the reader there." Very well said. I love being able to travel through books, and a writer who makes a setting come alive gives the reader something special.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Hi Susan. It's my dream to travel all over the world, but if I can't be there physically I'll go there in books. It really is special and the next best thing. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.