Points of Resonance

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of getting places to resonate with the people in a world and thus through them with the audience, even before anyone actually sets foot there, and talked about what sorts of factors might give the places that resonance. The next step, then, is to figure out what sorts of things to drop to give the audience that clear sense of place.

First off, kind of place. You don’t have to tell the audience exactly what it is, particularly if nobody ever visits, but at the very least you should know, and should probably at least drop a few feature hints that let people know they’re dealing with, say, a city whose inhabitants all up and died at the same time a few months ago rather than a battlefield or one of those ruins that practically glow in the moonlight. This is one of those times when overused poetic phrases can come in handy, as long as they’re in the dialogue and not in the narrative: if people regularly refer to things like “the bottomless depths of Whatchacallit” or “the ancient pillars of Whereveritis”, then it’ll at least be clear that Whatchacallit runs deep and is probably full of water and that Whereveritis was manmade and, well, has pillars. If you can make it a source of metaphorical allusion, so much the better; remember how in-world slang could be used not to get the situation across but to establish what the slang was talking about?

Think about the kind of mood with which people refer to the place. Is it fear? Longing? Rage or sorrow at some ancient wrong? Satisfaction at what happened to someone there? If you’re planning multiple places, it’s a good idea to give them different sorts of dominant moods, to further facilitate differentiation.

As the audience gets to see the place itself, or hear actual descriptions thereof, you can take that mood and start applying it to the description. Remember what I told you about going beyond straight description, trying to get a quality across without ever using that word? This is where it’s going to come in handy. Connotations in particular, and words with heavy symbolism behind them, will help ensure that you’re getting the right kinds of pictures with as few words as possible.

Significant places are like characters; it’s vital that we see them for what they are and know how to tell them apart. Help them resonate, and the task becomes that much easier.

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