Mapping Your Stories

by Avi (’15)

Ever wonder where your characters live? Where they walk their dog? What their neighborhood is like? Who their neighbors are?

A sense of place makes a story believable. Setting is immensely important; where a character lives greatly influences their actions and thoughts. I like to visualize the town where my characters are raised and where the characters live. I find it important to know where they go and get coffee on a rainy day.  Even if I don’t blatantly say, “Jake got coffee at Mary’s Marvelous Cafe on 4th Blvd.,”  in the story, knowing what coffee shop they go to and where it is help ground the story.

one map everyone's familiar withTo know where my characters live, I draw maps. A character who lives out in the suburbs in a townhouse is going to have a different outlook than the person living in the condo above their workplace. Even if you don’t go into your character’s daily life in your story– like their job, knowing how they get to work, where they work, where they live– understanding their life helps to develop them as a person. What does it say about a character who lives right above where they work? What does it say about a character who commutes 3 hours to get to work? Where your character lives helps you to understand why they live there, what they feel about where they live, and how where they live radiates into their personality. Where a character lives says a lot about who they are. For the next story you write, try mapping out the city and town in which they live/work/play, as well as where the story takes place.  If your story is set out in the country, and your character lives in the city, how does that affect them? Mapping your story will create a more realistic world for you and your reader.

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