Passionate about “Place”

When it comes to literary devices what could more powerful than the mysterious, mercurial, silent passenger under our character’s feet? That is, the place(s) the story moves through support and ground the skein (backbone) of the emotional dynamics that play out on the page. The inner and outer landscape do a lovely dance of transformation.

Now that Beth and I have processed a healthy stack of fiction submissions on the theme of “Place,” I want to give a little attention to the masters who do this dance of transformation in their fictions and creative non-fictions so well.

Tim Cahill

Annie Proulx

Stephen King

Don George

Simon Calder

Robert Hass

Christopher Reyolds

Harriet O’brien

Annie Dillard

Garrison Keillor 

… to name a few.

When “Place” is a character in a story you know it. For example, we feel the chill of the rules crack down on Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain” — the very heterosexual, macho cowboy spirit of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. The sense of …you guys are really in trouble now! crackles across the dry air and into our bones.

But let’s look at a few excerpts from writers whose talent with image detail and description steals the air out of your lungs. Emotions engage, immediacy is palpable.

“Guitar Central” by Christopher Reyolds – First appeared in The Los Angeles Times.

It is a mild day in the mountains of middle Mexico, a fine day for chasing butterflies or lingering on cobbled side streets, neither of which I’ll be doing. I am here to sniff sawdust and engage in arcane conversations with old men in dim, cluttered rooms.

~ I love the juxtaposition of  cliché to reality. Especially since clichés are like candy when including “place” as vital element of design in story ~

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“Las Vegas” by Simon Calder.

But when it comes to gambling, tuition is better than intuition.

Beware of staying in Vegas too long. On my last evening I got so lost trying to find a way out of Binions Horseshoe Casino that I had to ask for directions back to real life.

More in the travel writing tradition but palpable. Vegas takes on life like proportions.

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 “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard.

Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it … I have to say the words, describe what I’m seeing. If Tinker Mountain erupted, I’d be likely to notice. But if I want to notice the lesser cataclysms of valley life, I have to maintain in my head a running description of the present. It’s not that I’m observant; it’s just that I talk too much.

An argument between identity and surroundings-a struggle of nervousness in character. Beautifully developed emotional landscape in parody to the tensions of place and time.

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This little article has one simple request: Get excited. Next week’s showcase is a beautiful blend of strong physical detail and emotional story arc’s that are riveting.

 

~ by Niya C Sisk, CR Stories founder

 

 

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