Location’s stupid important. I don’t know how many times I’ve read a piece by a college student, or even a published author, and have found myself lost in a fit of outstanding boredom. It’s important to develop a good story before engaging how it’s going to look like, however the lack of icing on the cake is a danger zone when you know what you’re telling but have extinguished no way of showing it. I think location is especially helpful in finding your writer’s voice, a device that makes brainstorming a lot more seamless and explosive.

Considering location on a micro level – such as coffee shops, libraries, or a family home – if we’re going to create a riveting scene that weighs heavily on the circumstances, we’ll have to adhere to the authenticity of the atmosphere. For example, if I wanted to have a post-divorced couple discuss their problems in a coffee shop, the atmosphere would dramatically affect the way they talk, move, and react because this is a public setting where many others could bear witness. There’s also a level of discomfort that can evoke from whoever you’re writing about, for this is otherwise a very sensitive topic that would rather be discussed in private.

Remember, less is more: you don’t have to concoct an elaborate setting just because it’s “symbolic” or “edgy.” From an audience perspective, would you be shocked, curious, or confused to perceive a failed marriage in the middle of a coffee shop? Why are they in the coffee shop? Why can’t they just talk about it at home or in the car? Does one spouse live far away, or is the other homeless due to the explicit nature and turmoil of the divorce proceedings? What is the story? A location can go in many ways—they can drive the stakes, the characters, and the plot.

Establishing location can be made possible by utilizing metaphors, allegories, or using the five senses that enhances a character’s perception. Don’t just tell us where we are, show us. Be as subtle as you like, too. A fine example would be something along the lines of, “My body exhilarated a chilling jolt when I stepped outside the toasty comfort of my mother’s house.” A start, but once you begin to engage a location, it’s especially important to acknowledge how the story makes you feel. Look up images, listen to music, write down adjectives and verbs. Make your story an entity, a spirit, a road trip between snowy mountains underneath a blanket of stars. Without an established location, the experience falls short, and therefore the story is lazy.

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