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Can anyone provide me with hints and ideas regarding how best to add depth to locations when writing fiction. There always seems to be a vast difference between what I can mentally view and what I'm able to put into words.

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Describing location is more than just what you see. Your character needs to interact with their surroundings too, even if they are only thinking about it, such as wishing something was different somehow, or missing something somewhere over the horizon. 

I hope that was helpful. The question was rather vague. You could post up a sample and I might be able to help you flesh it out a little.

How about including descriptions of scents, sounds, maybe even the weather? That always helps to set a location. For example, my stories are set in a fictional Cornish town, so I will describe the rugged coastline, the crashing waves of the sea, and the quaint cobbled streets of the town centre. I use Daphne Du Maurier for my personal guide on setting the scene, so perhaps there is an author you can refer to for assistance.



Anna L. Walls said:

Describing location is more than just what you see. Your character needs to interact with their surroundings too, even if they are only thinking about it, such as wishing something was different somehow, or missing something somewhere over the horizon. 

I hope that was helpful. The question was rather vague. You could post up a sample and I might be able to help you flesh it out a little.

Hi Anna,

 

Thanks for feedback. I have a scene in my next book where the Inspector is looking out across the ruins of an Abbey and the surrounding grounds. I was struggling to write the mental vision I had.

Dave Watson said:



Anna L. Walls said:

Describing location is more than just what you see. Your character needs to interact with their surroundings too, even if they are only thinking about it, such as wishing something was different somehow, or missing something somewhere over the horizon. 

I hope that was helpful. The question was rather vague. You could post up a sample and I might be able to help you flesh it out a little.

Hi Catherine,

 

Thanks for your reply. You have given me a few ideas. It's an important scene in the novel i'm working on and I really want it to set the scene, if that makes sense? I have this mental picture of an an ancient Abbey that is lying in ruins, with mist covering the top of the trees etc. It's frustrating at times when you know what you want to write but just can't put it into words.

Catherine Green said:

How about including descriptions of scents, sounds, maybe even the weather? That always helps to set a location. For example, my stories are set in a fictional Cornish town, so I will describe the rugged coastline, the crashing waves of the sea, and the quaint cobbled streets of the town centre. I use Daphne Du Maurier for my personal guide on setting the scene, so perhaps there is an author you can refer to for assistance.

Hi Dave

I don't believe I'm an expert, but have found my owns to achieve this and can add some general comments on the sort of thing I've learnt. I can also suggest a couple of writers who are able to use their locations well in their books.

I think Michael Connolly's portrayal of Los Angeles is particularly strong as is Ian Rankin with his portrayal of Edinburgh. I tried to achieve some of this in my own book A Very English Revolution but have to bow to the masters.

1) It doesn't have to be real. This is important because not everyone who reads a book or piece of work will necessary have been to the place you describe. Even completely made up places can have imaginative descriptions that make you believe in them. Of course if you're talking about somewhere like New York then people will immediately want to hear about specific locations they know about, but it doesn't mean you can't find a fictional place along side the highlights.

2) is detail. You haven't got pages of space to write extensive descriptions or you will bore your reader. So therefore to give depth add small bits of detail which can help to form an opinion. A typical shop, the sign outside. The people on the street, what they are wearing. Create a landmark, on a hilltop or town square that gives an indication of the history. Write an event into the dialogue that gives more natural clues to the reader.

3) Think of an artist drawing a picture, or a movie camera panning round. Start big drawing the outline then focus in on specific details. Make sure you show the reader what you see in your head, not tell them. Embolden with emotion and colour, add more dimensions to the place.

4) Don't do it all at once. Long drawn out descriptive pieces require enormous talent to do and even then most readers are bored by them after a 1000 words. So no need to go overboard. I would suggest adding description in as the story unfolds at various points in the story, so the reader can build their understanding and view on the area in small doses so they almost don't realise it's happening. Bit like planting clues to a whodunnit, in the end they will get to the same picture as the author.

Hope this helps

Steve

Hi Steve,

Thankyou so much for your reply. This is a tremendous help and will go a long way to help me in my writing.

Regards

Dave



Steve Norris said:

Hi Dave

I don't believe I'm an expert, but have found my owns to achieve this and can add some general comments on the sort of thing I've learnt. I can also suggest a couple of writers who are able to use their locations well in their books.

I think Michael Connolly's portrayal of Los Angeles is particularly strong as is Ian Rankin with his portrayal of Edinburgh. I tried to achieve some of this in my own book A Very English Revolution but have to bow to the masters.

1) It doesn't have to be real. This is important because not everyone who reads a book or piece of work will necessary have been to the place you describe. Even completely made up places can have imaginative descriptions that make you believe in them. Of course if you're talking about somewhere like New York then people will immediately want to hear about specific locations they know about, but it doesn't mean you can't find a fictional place along side the highlights.

2) is detail. You haven't got pages of space to write extensive descriptions or you will bore your reader. So therefore to give depth add small bits of detail which can help to form an opinion. A typical shop, the sign outside. The people on the street, what they are wearing. Create a landmark, on a hilltop or town square that gives an indication of the history. Write an event into the dialogue that gives more natural clues to the reader.

3) Think of an artist drawing a picture, or a movie camera panning round. Start big drawing the outline then focus in on specific details. Make sure you show the reader what you see in your head, not tell them. Embolden with emotion and colour, add more dimensions to the place.

4) Don't do it all at once. Long drawn out descriptive pieces require enormous talent to do and even then most readers are bored by them after a 1000 words. So no need to go overboard. I would suggest adding description in as the story unfolds at various points in the story, so the reader can build their understanding and view on the area in small doses so they almost don't realise it's happening. Bit like planting clues to a whodunnit, in the end they will get to the same picture as the author.

Hope this helps

Steve

Hi Dave,

I agree with what Steve said, that is pretty much how I go about my writing. I think about how it would appear to me as a reader, and write it in the style that I like to see. I also imagine my stories as films, and that way I can add the visual description as a transcript of what's in my head.

Good luck with it!

Perhaps try a little mystery. I have a part in my book where my character thinks she is being followed by some sort of creature. And because of the darkness she is unable to see it, however she can hear it all around her. It turns out that the ground is giving out from under her. But the sounds and the movement leads her to believe she is being followed. You can discribe the surroundings over pages of movement with the characters without drifting off into bordom...I agree with everyone too...

Dave you have a novel on Amazon.

Why do you need to learn how to write descriptive pieces?

Is it for the same novel?

A short story? Or standard prose?

What scene have you tried to put into words?

Does it involve any action?

Does it take in a forest or gardens?

Hi Cleveland,

 

I'm working on a 2nd novel and want to improve on the 1st one by adding more depth. Several people have very kindly provided me with ideas so hopefully I can add value to the story.

 

Kind Regards

Dave

Cleveland W. Gibson said:

Dave you have a novel on Amazon.

Why do you need to learn how to write descriptive pieces?

Is it for the same novel?

A short story? Or standard prose?

What scene have you tried to put into words?

Does it involve any action?

Does it take in a forest or gardens?

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