Every story has a place, and you always write somewhere. While a place or location is just the background and on the edges of what is happening, it still has an important part in your writing.
Place of Writing
In a secluded cabin, on a bus, from under the bed, or in a fast food restaurant, where you write has much and little importance. Especially while I was a teenager, most of my writing was in a notebook whenever and wherever I didn’t have to be doing something else. I would write during the little gaps in class when everyone else was chatting around me.
Writing can be done anywhere, and some authors write books in five minute increments while waiting to pick up a child, in waiting rooms, and any other moment available. This means writing wherever you happen to be. The place you write doesn’t have to be spectacular or secluded. Really the only necessary place is a state of your mind in which you can create and write.
At times that place or muse is hard to access and we experience some form of writers block. This is when a physical location or designated writing space can be useful. Minimal distractions is always preferred. For some that means not at home where dishes, laundry, and other areas of the house seem to be calling for help. Others just need to be away from conversation and extra noise. I like to find some place comfortable, or look for a place that has aspects that spark my imagination. Secluded places in nature, a cozy library, a coffee shop, or a prime people-watching location are great options.
Location of Fiction
Where a story takes place may be one of the most subtly important aspects of a book. One of the biggest reasons anyone reads or consumes any type of story is to escape to another place. Alternate realities, historical settings, and fantasy worlds are all wonderful places for escape. Because that is a large motivation for readers, it is important to put the story in a good location.
World building is a critical writing exercise and an endless rabbit hole. Creating a unique and vivid place is important, but can even be too much when you get to writing. Excessive description slows down a story and will actually eject the reader from the story rather than pull them in. Avoid this by carefully choosing details that contribute to the story and the experiences of the character.
The setting should almost be a character that interacts with the other characters in the story. The looming mountains may be mocking and challenging the hero. And the darkness might be a secondary villain. Perhaps the jungle isn’t on a good or bad side, but it certainly isn’t going to stand back to let anyone and everyone through. Utilizing the five senses of sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch is also a great way to make the fictional location more vivid.
The setting is useful in complimenting what a character is feeling, like rain at a funeral. Contrasting the events of the story, and increasing the tension are wonderful options as well. A sword fight is cool, but what if it’s on the edge of a cliff? What if the volcano starts erupting during the wedding?
Place in Life
“Where you are” in life has way more meaning than physical location. It means mental and physical well being and progress towards goals. Coming to understand “where you are” is important for creators and characters. Mental and physical health greatly impacts the development of goals, creativity, and any measurement of success. The only way to journey to a better place is recognizing where you are and where you want to go.
Being in a bad spot is not a bad thing, unless you intend to stay there. Everyone has bad days and situations, and it’s normal and acceptable to acknowledge them when they come. But everyone has the ability to change their circumstances. That is what we love about stories, is watching characters overcome the circumstances. We are able to overcome our bad places as we make steps towards the better place we want to be.