In my previous posts about writing place, I discussed a few key concepts, accompanied by exercises and tools for self-assessment:
- Kinesthetic sense: the body in relation to objects and physical spaces.
- Loci: objects, elements, animals and natural phenomena that contain metaphoric potential.
- & Juxtaposition: the way we create simile and metaphor.
These are all helpful tools for accessing the senses and the imagination. But place is bigger than all of that, right? It is more than the body’s relationship to objects and space, bigger than elements or natural phenomena, more grounded in the reality of experience than figurative language.
Which brings us to character. To revisit Rebecca Solnit’s ideas from post #1: place isn’t just about geographical features, or even about memory. It is also about subjective experience, cultural identity, and regional character.
Subjective experience, for fiction writers (memoirists, too!) is about character—the way a character (or the narrator in nonfiction) perceives, inhabits, and describes a particular place. It is about the way a character sees him or her or their self in relation to that place.
WRITING EXERCISE #3
Consider the setting you used in the exercises from post #2. Now, consider a character (mostly likely your protagonist, if it is fiction, or your narrator, if it is nonfiction) in relation to that setting.
- What are the characters thoughts and feelings about this particular setting?
- How does the character physically inhabit the setting? (Are they at ease, uncomfortable, etc.)
- How does the character see the self in relation to setting?
What ideas does this give you about how you might use setting to deepen and complicate character in your stories or nonfiction?
How might you use setting to clarify cultural and regional identity, while remaining alert to subjectivity—both your own and that of your characters or narrator?