Sense of Place (DOG EAR)

Sense of Place (DOG EAR)

ne important element of storytelling is a sense of place. If you feel that you know a location that the story is taking place in, if it feels real and connected to the rest of the world, the story “grounds” its foundation. And while this can work in literature, it’s very important in more visual media.

We just stated watching Goliath, a tale about a lawyer who drinks too much and has fallen on hard times. Taking place in LA, the lawyer lives on the second story of a sea-side motel. Right next door is a bar. Ranging around outside is a mutt whom the lawyer feeds. He eats from food trucks that show up some evenings outside. A restaurant just down the street offers to “Irish” his coffee and looks the other way at his smoking in the booths. And suddenly you can see his world and sense his limited life (until, of course, a case comes his way). It really feels like some no-name LA street.

Rake was another one, a little more limited. You get to know this lawyer’s apartment and the shop downstairs where he takes his meals (in his bathrobe). Again, it adds to his character.

More examples: Community. Here, the seven community college students spend a great deal of show-time gathered around their study table in the library, so much so that when it gets destroyed in later episodes, they rebuild it as “Study Table II”. Again, our sense of place.

If I had to mention space ships that compartmentalize the action, I’d point to The Millennium Falcon, Serenity, The Rocinante , and even The Bebop. Fans of the show know almost every nook and cranny of these vessels. I don’t think the the Federations Enterprise was quite the same. It felt too sterile an environment for any attachment outside of those of fanboys. After all, rust and dents and small twisty corridors make a ship. Fans of Star Wars thrilled when Solo knew just where to hit his control panel when the electronics went out. It’s part of the background, an important part.

So, for you writers, make sure you know the area your heroes operate in. Give them a true stage, one with vibrant and practical scenery. Give them a place to have their adventures from. Breathe life into your story with a vibrant world.