Sense of Place

I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to do a couple of creative writing workshops recently in Dorchester and Bridport, focusing on Sense of Place. So, for this month’s blog I thought I’d set out a few of my thoughts on one aspect of how to use place in a story. Thanks to everyone who attended the workshops and to Dorset Writers Network for organising.

Deciding Where to Set the Story

  • We’ve all heard the old chestnut ‘write about what you know’ (or ‘where’ you know in this case). I prefer ‘write about what or where you want to explore’. It’s more fun to research and learn at the same time, although it depends on time constraints too of course.
  • If you write about a place that has an interesting history/ architecture/ culture/ food / geology etc, this can add more layers to your story – both literally and symbolically.
  • Write about a place that resonates with your story, characters and themes (obvious but not always as obvious as you might think…)
  • Devour books and films set in that place and try to find some more unusual facts, stories and myths attached to it.
  • Go there for as long as you can and absorb all the flavours. Walk the walks. Take lots of photos, make lots of notes and do as much writing as you can in situ. (That’s the really fun bit)
  • Consider using a fictional place – this could be within a real region for authenticity and yet you can make it your own.

We began the workshop with a visualisation exercise intended to develop a use of all the senses in writing and also to practise linking character and perspective with the environment. I used prompts and everyone went to different places… It’s also a good way to relax the body, release the mind and let creativity flow…

Two lovely groups made these workshops a really enjoyable experience for me. I look forward to more Dorset creative writing workshops in the future.

© Rosanna Ley
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