What an amazing word ‘place’ is! Webster’s definition of place has twelve parts and is far too lengthy to copy here. And though it includes such descriptions as space, atmosphere, environment, time period, social standing, it still fails to capture the entire meaning of the word.
I love writing about place. It encapsulates everything that goes into great writing: the people, the setting, the time period, the very essence of each story. Maybe it is because of this that Italy is such a simple example and wonderful place to write about.
Italy received a brief cameo in my last novel, UNTANGLING THE KNOT, but claims the entire setting for my next one. Place is so important to my writing that it is even in my tagline, Journeys Inspired by Love.
What is it about place that inspires me as a reader and a writer? It feels colorful to me, filled with food, and scenery and accents and architecture. The light is different in each location (think Picasso on the Riviera). The color of food is unique to place. I visualize the reds of pasta and wine in Italy versus the earth tones of spices in Morocco. All of these things can be used to show, rather than tell, about the place.
Of course there is also accent or language, and in this authors are cautioned to be careful. I once read a fantastic guest post on Kristen Lamb’s blog, discussing dialogue. In it the guest, revealed the challenges of writing great dialogue. One of these pitfalls is using language that pulls the reader from the story and reminds them they are reading. Some examples of this are: overuse of a single word, like an endearment, using dialogue tags other than said, and overuse of a foreign language or local slang. I can recognize myself in this last one as I’ve had to edit 40 Ciao’s (said by my Italian heroine) out of my current manuscript. (And p.s., foreign language is always formatted in italics; a lesson I learned from one, kind, rejection letter.)
Writing place takes in the scent of the foods, the color of the sky, the sound of the traffic and how to say goodbye (other than ciao.) Some of my favorite books which illustrate great use of place are-
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Chasing Cezanne by Peter Mayle (or anything else by this author)
Around Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks
Molto Mayhem (hopefully coming someday soon, by Deanne Wilsted:>)
I hope you are swept away and find yourself in a new and exciting place.
I am always looking for novels with a great sense of place. Do you have any good recommendations? I’d love to hear them and promise to share them! Leave me a comment and let me know.