The Alchemy of Place
Thursday, April 2, 2020, Lockdown continues until April 30, or beyond.
Think of the places you habitate in a day. You may be drawn to the kitchen by aromas, bread baking, chocolate in cookies or a roast as it nears completion. Each of those dishes is common or foreign to you. You might be vegan and wretch at the thought of what is in your world a dietary travesty. None the less kitchens are important whether you cook or store your shoes in the oven.
We spend more time in the bathroom than we like to admit. I’d say more than ever in lockdown. With the advent of Zoom as an instrument of communication, my mirror time has increased. I hear Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, “I’m ready for my closeup Mr. De Mille.”
My office, once a place of isolated sanctuary, is ignored. As a writer, I believed that I had to be in the right chair at my desk triggered by a never defined bio-rhythm. My office now reeks of further confinement. Lockdown has proven my iPad and any flat surface will do.
The bedroom has become a nest. Clean sheets every other day, fluffed pillows, a heated mattress pad, and stacks of books at the ready to fit the mood of the moment. It waits for me at the end of the day as eager as a lustful paramour.
Place in writing is as important as the protagonist. He or she is shaped by where they have been, where they are and where they want to be. Place adds depth, drama, and emotion. It incorporates all the senses. As a former Chicagoan, I exited my el stop each morning inundated by chocolate perfume, thanks to Blommer’s Chocolate Factory. I greedily inhaled its exhaust before continuing to work, the perfect start to my workday. Others at the same exit covered their noses in disgust describing the smell as overwhelming, cloying, gross. They never longed for the Golden Ticket on offer by Willy Wonka. They are fodder for different characters thanks to their contrasting emotions and triggers, protagonists perhaps? Same place plus different drivers equal diverse characters and opportunities for story.
Suffer from Writer’s Block? Place is the perfect Ninja to crack writer’s block. Have your character go to the kitchen. Why? Have him make a sandwich or get pissed off the milk is gone. Have her go to the bathroom and find his sock on the floor inches from the hamper. Emotion will spring up and the words will flow. Characters, like us, require moments of the mundane to be read as real.