For me this has two possible meanings:
- Importance of place. . . in the writing itself; where it’s set. There’s the obvious where/what/why, but also, how important will the setting be, and how much will it be described and affect what happens.
- Importance of place. . . where you are writing. Nowadays, even with a lot of us using word-processors, we can write anywhere: in cafés, on trains, down the beach, up a mountain. . . anywhere we like. For as long as the battery lasts. Some people even write on their mobile phones, which personally I don’t understand. Even if I had a phone capable of doing so (which I don’t) I don’t think I ever would.
In many ways taking a laptop/ipad/notebook(electronic)/phone off out to write is no different than taking a notebook and pen, wandering off and sitting down somewhere to scribble. After all, we still get driven in by rain or cold or hunger, and pens can run out as easily as batteries die. Although battery death is inevitable whereas I like to think pens are a little more reliable!
In most of my previous writing, place has caused me little bother. I write at home; somewhere quiet with no-one talking and no music. Usually somewhere about the house, or with the nicer weather, out in the garden. The setting of my stories has been obvious on the whole, and all the where/what/why/how has just slipped easily from beneath my fingertips.
Not this time. For some reason, I’m having difficulties with my latest. And not only that, but I think I’m letting the place dictate my story too much; it’s becoming almost more important than the characters, which will surely never do.
So what do I do about it? I was excited to be writing something set here, which could be part of the problem I suppose, but do I change it when I’m already several chapters in? That will completely alter the story; I may as well scrap it and start over, which I really don’t want to do. The other advice I’ve seen is ‘be strict with yourself’. All very well, but forcing yourself to write or not write a certain way can be stifling, and you also get into the issue of going off writing and trying to write when you don’t want to. . . Like with anything else: sometimes it works and sometimes it goes horribly wrong. It could even bring on writer’s block – I have done this in the past.
Getting a bit off-topic here, so back to being strict with yourself: Another thing I’ve never been able to do is dictate where my writing is going. I’m like the reader, just along for the ride. Before anyone asks I have tried planning. If I try, I can guarantee the story won’t match it at the end except maybe the barest essentials, like there’s a group of people and they do stuff. And my characters have minds of their own; if they don’t want to do something, or wouldn’t do something, I can’t write it. (I sense a future post there somewhere!) I believe the correct term for it is ‘a pantser’. What does this have to do with the place? Well if the setting is becoming too prominent, can I get it back to being as it’s meant to, or has it too taken on a life of it’s own? Heck, I hope this isn’t a trend. Dealing with stubborn characters is bad enough!
So what do I do?!!
As it happens I have a chance to go to the place the story is set and I’m hoping that being there, seeing it and experiencing it for myself, will help me not only write about it more easily and authentically, but will allow me to put the setting back in it’s proper place. i.e. part of the work but not taking it over. Obviously this isn’t a practical solution for most, and I don’t even know if it’ll work, but it seemed worth a try. An experiment, since I was going there anyway, and I’ll report back on the result.
If anyone out there has any tips for dealing with this, please share them in case my experiment fails!!