NaNoWriMo Tips: Locations

Where does your story take place? Does it happen in one place or many places?

Take time in NaNoWriMo to write extensive descriptions of each location in each scene in your story. In the editing phase, you might only use a small part of this, but by exploring the surrounds around your characters fully, you have a wealth of information to choose from.

It’s difficult to write about a place you’ve never experienced, though science fiction and fantasy authors do it all the time. If you are new to writing, write about a location you are familiar with, one you know well. You can always change or rename the location later during the editing stage.

Consider the following as you describe each location:

  • Where are they?
  • When are they? What time of day? What year? What month? Which day of the week?
  • Describe the ground.
  • Describe the building(s) outside.
  • Describe the building(s) inside.
  • What is the most predominate color?
  • What do you smell? One thing or many things? Which is dominant? Which is a hint of fragrance?
  • What are the sounds? Are there many or few? Which is loudest, drowning the rest? Which is softest, heard only when paying attention or in a moment of silence from the rest of the sounds?
  • What is the temperature?
  • Is it dry, humid, wet, damp, windy, hot, cold?
  • What does the character(s) feel on their skin? Is the sensation the same on top of the head as well as the feet?
  • Where is the sun? Can it be seen?
  • Describe textures, of walls, ceilings, furniture, floor, plants.
  • Is nature here? What kind of nature? What is it, what does it look like?
  • Does anything in the scene trigger stereotype reactions?
  • Does anything in the scene trigger an emotional or memory response to one or more characters?
  • Are there doors, paths, or exits?
  • Are there windows? Open, closed? What is visible through them?
  • Does the space feel open or closed, restricted, or free?
  • Are there landmarks, statues, artwork, elements that serve as markers or direction indicators?
  • Which way are the characters facing? North, east, west, south, etc.
  • Is the sun/moon in their face or behind them? Or not anywhere?
  • Are their vehicles? Furniture? What man made objects are near them? Do they interact with them?
  • Find one element in the scene and describe it. Is it important to the scene, or an accessory? Does it help the story or help define the characters?
  • Find another element, one that might be missed. Describe it. Why is it there?

This should start a series of your own questions specific to the location. Write those down and create your own list.

You can find more writing tips and prompts and tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.