Worksheet #10 – WHERE
Like when, where is a double-sided consideration when writing a story.
The big where is the story world, which can be a contemporary small town, a bygone era in a city, a fantasy world, a dystopian future world, a fictional version of your home town, or a galaxy far, far away.
The smaller where addresses scenes: in what spot in the story world does each scene occur?
While writing about where, think about place: The story world is place, and scenes are places.
In scenes writing classes, I give an exercise called All the Places You Character Will Go. This can also be called Get Out of the Kitchen! Some writers have a habit of putting the same characters in the same spot doing the same thing—many times chatting with someone in the kitchen. That’s what most of us do when we have a problem or a sticky situation, right? We call a pal and hash it out over coffee. This is fine if home is the character’s base, but you’ve selected a setting for a reason, and you do a disservice to your characters, and your readers, if you tie them to only a few spots. Send them out into the world. Anything can happen out there!
Think of all the places you go each week: home, work, friend’s house, grocery store, church, evening class, poetry reading, shopping, dinner at a restaurant, school drop-off, kid’s swim meet, yoga, hairdresser, massage, doctor’s appointment, corner deli, shoe store, etc. Every time you send a character to a new place, you’re sending the reader there, too. Show off your setting! Every time you send your character out into the world, they have a chance of encountering someone who may be important to the story. If you are like me, there’s limited access to your kitchen. Only so much real action can happen there. Once you step out into the setting, there’s a whole big world full of mayhem out there. Use it.
Exercise: List every place your character/s go in the story, beginning to end. Is there a lot of movement to many different places? Or are your characters stuck drinking endless cups of tea in someone’s kitchen?
- Where (and when) does this story take place?
- Where (how far into the story) is a unique story world revealed?
- Where (what particular location) does the story begin?
- Where (what particular location) does it end?
- Where does the inciting incident take place?
- Where do crimes take place?
- Where does the protagonist live?
- Where does the antagonist live?
- Where does the protagonist go every day, as part of job/life?
- Where does the protagonist hang out for fun?
- Where is the protagonist obligated to go or visit on a personal level?
- Where does the protagonist go related to the Story Question?
- Where are places the protagonist can go for comfort?
- Where are places the protagonist might visit as backstory?
- Where has the protagonist lived or worked before now?
- Where is the sleuth’s home base, to solve the crime?
- Where are meaningful places in the story?
- Where does the killer/bad guy go after committing the crime/s?
- Where does the killer/bad guy hide from discovery?
- Where does the climax take place?
- Where does the main character appear when introduced?
- Where is the last place the reader sees the main character?
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