Among all the elements to consider when writing, creating a strong sense of place can be key in transporting your reader into your story. Perhaps it’s not surprising but for me, the first of my favourite fictional places to spring to mind are based in children’s literature – The Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie the Pooh, the enchanted wood in The Faraway Tree, Kieran Island in The Famous Five and the secret garden in (funnily enough) The Secret Garden.
At a recent writer’s conference, author Jeanette O’Hagan offered up these tips for creating a strong sense of place:
(1) Use all the senses – sight, the quality of the light, sounds, smell, taste, touch (including temperature, texture and movement), emotions and body sensations.
(2) Weather can be used to either emphasise or contrast with mood. Also, what’s the season – is there snow, rain, extreme cold or heat?
(3) Use the character’s point of view to describe the setting. What does the character notice first? Usually this is described from the big picture down to small.
(4) Consider what’s at stake – what you notice when you’re running away from danger is completely different to what you notice if you’re relaxing with a cup of tea.
(5) Time – either creating historical context or literally the time of day. Things you notice during the day will be different to things you notice at night.