Developing a Sense of Place

What do great stories do? They take you to another place!

Indeed, the role of place is often as important as that of plot and character development. As one great writer, Wendell Berry, said: if you don’t know where you are . . . you don’t know who you are.

Japanese doorway

This is true of your stories, too. A richly told story should embrace a sense of place and invite readers to experience that in detailed and emotional fullness.

Sense of place is related to what is often “setting” for a story, but it is a far more powerful concept.

We will explore how to create settings that become mysterious, awesome, magnificent, transformational . . . the difference between a house and a home, a town and a place to experience the fullness of life.

Another writer, Paul Gruchow, described the difference as one between scenery and place: “Scenery is something you have merely looked at; place is something you have experienced.”

We’ll consider what Ivan Doig called “specific geographies, but galaxies of imaginative expression” – the worlds seen in the writings of so-called regional writers like William Faulkner or Ivan Doig himself, or in the fantasy worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling, or in the writings of other literary greats who knew how and why to create richly conceived places.

Specifically, we’ll look at a half-dozen basic techniques for creating a stronger Sense of Place in your stories. Writers and reader will learn to develop and appreciate the transformational power of this often-overlooked aspect of literary storytelling.


Presentations range from a 1-hour talk to a several-hour workshop. The longer session allows time for writing exercises and in-depth exploration of great writing approaches.

Icelandic house