Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Hey, Where We At--Which Union Square?
Union Square, Manahattan
Union Square, San Francisco
Union Square, Seattle
Most writers are admirably clear about time, but too often unclear about place. Even in a story that has been set in Seattle, we need sometimes to reinforce the reader's sense of bearings. One mention of the city's name may not enough for a reader to place store names like Macy's or Bloomingdales in Seattle, not Manhattan. Furthermore, some landmarks may not be as well-known as we think: e.g., New York's Herald Square or Seattle's Pioneer Square.
Occasional reminders can be placed discreetly: The downtown Macy's is only blocks from 3rd and Pike, the crossing known as The Scourge of Seattle. Or: New York's flagship Macy's, located at Herald Square...
If this seems over-finicky, remember that anything causing a reader to stop and wonder where s/he is will slow down the momentum we've worked so hard to create.
The problem grows more pressing, if our hero--born in New York, now residing in Seattle and just back from San Francisco--finds himself thinking about Union Square.
Even in fantasy novels, I often need more grounding: how far away from 'the city' is the countryside now being shown?
We don't have to choose, as writers, between speed and clarity. Take the time to add the necessary telling detail. The clearer we are, the more quickly and happily readers will read.