So, you want to write a book. We have been tackling the five Ws and the H … that’s What, When, Where, Why. Who, and How. We started a couple of weeks ago with What, followed by When. Today we’ll discuss Where. They are all interconnected.
There are many writers who make a living as a writer. But the majority are just squeaking by or writing to an audience of one. Those in the latter categories are who I would like to help with this overview.
I do believe everybody has a story to tell. We don’t share because we don’t know how to tell the story … then we get frustrated … then we give up. I don’t want you to give up.
Now that you made the decision to do some writing, and decided what you were writing about, it’s time to start honing it.
Like the “when”, your idea will dictate the “where”. It’s the setting you choose to carry your story forward. It becomes part of the infrastructure for the story.
As an example, I recently read a story where the contemporary lead moved from New York City to Detroit to establish an art center in a stately mansion. The parallel story was her ancestors escaping from a Kentucky plantation by way of the Underground Railroad ultimately to Canada. The intersection was the stately mansion in Detroit which served as a stop on the journey and linked the past with the present.
The pitfall for many writers is they don’t identify the “where” and readers get lost trying to figure out where they are and how they got there. From experience I can tell you readers will just give up.
Just like the “when”, the “where” needs your attention as a writer. For example, you can’t move your characters from one location to another in a way that isn’t plausible. To explain, you wouldn’t have 19th century slaves moving through Indiana in the space of a day or two. It was time consuming and dangerous. Those chilling stories have to be incorporated into your story.
It is also important to keep your story line moving, even if it’s at a static point. All of your descriptions have to help identify where the action is taking place. Are the characters moving from place to place? Describe the journey. Are the characters having a discussion? Describe where they are and under what the circumstances are that brought them to this place.
The “where” is perhaps the most fun hub in the story. It allows you as the writer to bring your readers to the place where your characters are. Don’t get bogged down in too much information, but give descriptive hints where the scene takes place. As an example, “I introduced Jimmy to my crew, picked up my drink and purse and the two of us headed to the corner table. Jimmy started to introduce me, but as my eyes locked on the lone occupant at the table, he just dismissively waved and headed back to the girls.” Now we know the conversation was at a bar and sets the stage for the conversation that follows. Or, “The Mustang muscled its way through the early mid-May night, each twist and turn on the northern New Jersey back roads to Greenwood Lake, NY, responsive to my touch. It was 1966. The top was down, allowing the humid air to whip around the car and its occupants. The radio was turned all the way up, fighting the outside noise with music of the night. The four of us were already screaming to be heard – occasionally punctuated with off-key singing – screeching, actually – when Cousin Brucie picked a relevant platter to play.” Now we know this is a road scene in northern New Jersey near the New York state line in 1966. Or, “I drifted off to sleep and dreamed of myself sitting on a bench on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. The sky was dark with rolling clouds. The waves were anxious, pounding the pristine sand in a precise, rapid rhythm. The boardwalk was empty except for a few early morning gulls and a man standing by the rail about 100 feet away. As I huddled there, I closed my eyes, soaking in the sounds of the surf, the fresh, clean smell of the air, the feel of the salt air enveloping me in the gentle breeze.” Here we learned it was a dream oceanside at Seaside Heights, which sets up the rest of the scene.
Those examples, by the way, are from my latest book, My Name Is Sam … and Heaven Is Still Shining Through.
Paint that picture in your readers’ minds. Give them a back story that makes the scene pop. But, most of all, have fun with the “where”.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: When you are grateful — when you can see what you have — you unlock blessings to flow in your life. — Suze Orman