Friday, June 11, 2010

A Sense of Place

I think one of the most interesting parts of fantasy is to really get a sense of being somewhere else. It all boils down to evoking a sense of place and that made me consider doing something that I haven't done since my Communications course at university: participant observation. What is it, you ask? Well, it's great that you asked (you being my one silent lurker, *sigh*). Wikipedia describes ethnographies as a tool used for gathering empirical data on human societies/cultures. Sound exciting? It sure is!

Now, for authors of contemporary fiction to do a participation observation, all you've got to do is get permission to visit a location of interest and then quietly sit and observe the place/people as they go about their daily life. A person might just take a seat in a bar, shopping center, or any other place, and just pay attention to how people interact around you. Then you go home and write what you observed in a way that evokes that sense of place while attempting to stick to what you literally observed rather than making inferences about what your observation meant.

As a fantasy author, participant observations are still useful because a greater understanding of group dynamics is always beneficial. Sure the context and specifics may change, but the behaviors found in the quiet misery of a doctor's office might also apply to members of a particularly miserable religious congregation.

The other option for fantasy writers is to do a participant observation in your mind. This is good for visual daydreamers. Just close your eyes, mentally take a seat, and simply watch the various people wander around. Pay attention to what you can see, smell, hear. Watch how they interact. Normally when we're writing we're so busy juggling a dozen different thoughts in our heads that we never get to simply immerse ourselves in the imagery. Here is an opportunity.

Ahem, so while this might be yet another example of me inventing peculiarly high-brow forms of procrastination instead of either doing my writing or editing, I still think that it would be helpful.

No comments:

Post a Comment