There are novels that focus on dialogue, novels that focus on a plot, and then there are novels that are really written to expose the atmosphere or location that they are set in, where the characters and story serve as backdrop to highlight the nuance of place.
Romantic versions of Italy and Ireland are abound in novels, as are India, Paris, New York and a handful more "otherworldly" places. At times, the story and characters themselves are as strong as the novel, but other times the reader walks away with a vivid image of the place and rough memory of the characters.
Edward Rutherfurd is one author who focuses on place and builds characters and situations around the story of a city or country. His stories fascinate because they give the reader an intimate knowledge of the vibe and history of a place.
Today's writercize challenges you to focus on one place in much simpler terms, with a single paragraph or two to describe a space. If you can start small, and notice the details of something simple, you can eventually build on it to describe the bigger picture. The reason Rutherfurd's books work is because they do not focus entirely on major landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge; they look to the random street corner or the crowded bar sitting just below the bridge to describe the nuances of place and time, of unique atmosphere, while the landmark is mentioned in passing for placement.
writercize: Describe a place that you (or your fictional character) are drawn to for comfort, peace and quiet. Use subtlety to make your safe haven come to life for the reader. Think about sights, sounds and smells as you write.
(This writercize inspired by "safe haven," the Group Blogging Experience 2 word of the week. Bloggers of all ages, backgrounds and experience welcome to join GBE2 on Facebook, run by Elizabeth Grace, Oct. 7 guest blogger.)
Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about a tree from her childhood.writercizer sample response:
The tree sits low to the ground, roots tucked just below the neighbor's fence, surrounded by evergreens and tall weeds underfoot. One branch hangs low and bows down just at the right width to imitate a hammock and support a person seeking rest and a place to read a book. Hidden from the road and all but one window of the house, it is nearly silent. A quiet undercurrent of ocean waves nearly a mile away serve as white noise, while occasional birds chirp and sing reminders of life and music in nature.
This is the safe haven of my youth, a place to get away from homework and chores and noise and revel in the narrative jumping off the page straight to my mind's eye.