For me a strong sense of place makes a book or story REAL. The novel I am currently writing does not take place anywhere in North America but in an isolated and pristine coastal area of Southern Africa. I spent almost two months there earlier this year to get a ‘feel’ for that special place and more importantly to trace the steps one of my main characters would take in my story.
One the many reasons I love writing is that it makes me, for a time, an expert. I have to research and study topics and places if I hope to write with conviction and engage the reader. I was born with an insatiable curiosity about most things and writing makes it possible for me to butt in and dig around and ask questions that most people avoid asking. But to be honest I wouldn’t have attempted to write this story set in South Africa had I in fact not been born and raised there (which I was) and so I am intimately familiar with the people, the customs, language and landscape. That said, I don’t believe writers are limited to writing only what they know. Do you?
Watch Tony Kushner’s unexpected advice on writing what you know:
So what makes a book real to you? is it the sense of place or the characters’ real issues and dilemmas? I would love to hear from you.