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Why is place important?

Thoughts on place and short stories

The Feeling of the New

Picture this: you go to a new city or visit a seaside town you haven’t been to before or go away somewhere remote. Can you recall a time when you did this? Crucially I’m talking about the newness of this experience. What sensations do you get in your body? What thoughts are going through your head? Now imagine that you get some time on your own, away from your friends or from whatever it is you’re doing. You get some time to stare at the sea from a balcony, look out of the window of a skyscraper, or take in the view from your cottage. How do you feel?


Walk a different route

Actually, even walking a new way to work can have this affect. Take yourself out of your usual surroundings and you (literally and figuratively) see the world differently. You gain perspective. In other words, the places you inhabit influence how you are in the world. It’s easy to become enmeshed in familiar places, to the point that we don’t realise how bound up we are until we go somewhere new.

Place and Stories

So, then, why is place important in short stories? We’re intrinsically bound up with the worlds we inhabit and so are fictional characters – your readers will experience them as inauthentic if you write them any other way. When I wrote Unusual Places, I started each story with a place, and of course that isn’t a rule that I always follow, but I do think that a place is like an explosion of different stories, stories about the multitude of people who have passed through this place, or stories about events, things and people that have a deeper connection to the place. It is also possible to go to a place, as a writer, and to observe those stories unfolding in real time.

You can buy Unusual Places from the Cultured Llama website, as a paperback or ebook.

View all six posts on writing place in short stories here.


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