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Writing 101, Day Two: A Room with a View (Or Just a View)

We’re all drawn to certain places. If you had the power to get somewhere — anywhere — where would you go right now? For your twist, focus on building a setting description.

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If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

The spaces we inhabit have an influence on our mood, our behavior, and even the way we move and interact with others. Enter a busy train station, and you immediately quicken your step. Step into a majestic cathedral, and you lower your voice and automatically look up. Return to your own room, and your body relaxes.

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

— Joan Didion

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Giving your readers a clear sense of the space where your story unfolds will help them plunge deeper into your writing. Whether it’s a room, a house, a town, or something entirely different (a cave? a spaceship?), provide concrete details to set this place apart — and to create a more immersive reading experience.

You can go the hyperrealist route (think the opening four paragraphs of Gustave Flaubert’s A Simple Soul, a masterclass of telling detail). Or focus on how a specific space makes the people in it feel and behave, like blogger Julie Riso did in this visceral recounting of her hike through an Estonian bog.

Need a helping hand? Head to The Commons.

Editors’ Note:  you’ll get much more helpful feedback from your co-bloggers here and in The Commons if you ask specific questions. Questions like “What do you think of my blog?” or “Is this post good?” are difficult for people to respond to because they’re so broad; often, you’ll get an equally broad response (“It’s good!”), which doesn’t help you grow.

Instead, think about the particular things you’re interested in knowing, like:

  • Does my post feel too long? How could I make it more focused?
  • If you were interested in dogs/gardening/baseball/spelunking/your blog topic, would you find this post interesting? Will it help me reach other dogs/gardeners/baseball fans/spelunkers?
  • Does the introduction of this post intrigue you? Is the ending of my short story powerful enough?
  • Did I clearly explain how to make lasagna/run a marathon/groom a dog? What was unclear?

If you have more than one question, that’s fine, although we recommend focusing on one or two questions per post to avoid overwhelming folks. You’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of you, so there’s plenty of time to ask about different things.

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    1. I just commented the following on your post:

      This was brilliant. Enjoyed reading about your free fall of anxieties. My favorite had to bee your concern for turning 40. Sorry, yes, it’ll be here before you know it. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll embrace it entirely. Then you’ll look back at this post and wonder about your 24 year old self with a shake of the head. And I tell my husband all the time to get himself a new wallet. Not sure if there’s a bro code for wallets, but I’m starting to believe so. Looking forward to your other posts.

      Like

  1. Waooo. What a question! A place I will like to go to.
    As a child that lived in the city with my parents and siblings, Christmas was a season to look forward to as it afforded us the opportunity to travel to the village. Oh my village- Ndiakunwanta-Uno, Arondizuogu. Very peaceful, with the green countryside, the Osu spring, Okwara stream whose big -sized fishes are not killed or harvested.
    The masquerades, the fun, friendliness and much laughter. A time to meet with the extended familymembers.

    With nostalgia I remember my village in my childhood days. Now things have changed a little but still serene.

    That is it then. Now I desire to relocate to or visit USA.

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    1. I’m intrigued by your post and would want you to write about those Christmases, since they sound so unique to me – I had to look up Arondizuogu just to figure out you were from Nigeria!

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    1. this is such nice writing. You have fit in so much juicy detail into every part of this. I can see myself there, opening the fence and feeling leaves brush by me as I enter.

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    1. The topic is something that may have been done before but I did not find it cheesy. What makes a difference is how its told, and i thought you did well. I enjoyed reading it.

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      1. Thank you TLC 🙂 Needed that encouragement, and your time taken to read and comment is much appreciated.

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  2. Hi, all…
    I’m a little confused about where we are to publish our Writing 101 daily assignments. (I’m not very techie, especially when it comes to tech language, and my 8-year-old grandson isn’t here to help me. :>)

    I read that we were to post them on our own blog, and that’s what I did yesterday, making it my first post on one of my new blogs (The Flowering Side), and then pasted the link in The Commons (I think). But, today, when I clicked on my name for the drop-down box to get to the Writing 101 blog, I noticed that the Writing 101 drop-down includes “New Post”. So, is that where we write and publish our assignments? Do we do this in addition to posting on our blog? And, I just noticed that at the top of this page there is a “Postaday” tab, and the drop-down from it includes “Submit: Daily Prompt”. What gets posted there?

    As I said, I’m a little confused and would appreciate some help.

    Thanks,
    CK

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    1. I’m happy to clear the confusion (or at least try) — your challenge posts should be published on your own blog. You’re then encouraged to leave a link in the Commons, and can also do the same here (in the comments to the daily assignment), if you wish.

      The “Submit: Daily Prompt” box you saw is for sending us your ideas for a daily writing prompt — we often use reader-generated prompts on The Daily Post.

      I hope this helps!

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      1. Thanks, Ben! I’ll continue writing the daily assignments and publish those that are a subject fit on one of my blogs.

        But, just out of curiosity, why does the drop-down (or, pop-out-next-to) box for Writing 101 include “New Post” among the options listed? In other words, what is it for? Could I use it in order to get a link to leave in The Commons or here if I wanted to write on the daily prompt but didn’t want to publish on one of my blogs?

        Thanks, again!
        CK

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      2. Oops…let me try that first sentence again:

        I’ll continue writing the daily assignments and publish those where the subject is appropriate for one of my blogs.

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    2. I’m not sure what box you’re referring to… If it’s the drop-down menu at the top of your screen — the admin bar — clicking on “New Post” will let you write a new post on any of your blogs (you get to choose which, of course). If you clicked that while you were in the Commons, it would let you write a new message in the Commons — for example, one where you’d paste a link to a post on your own blog. The easiest way to do that in the Commons, though, is simply to use the big white text box near the top of the page.

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  3. Hi – I also signed up and have yet to receive any emails. I have checked my spam and nothing there. So far I am logging on and checking here to see what the daily challenge is…Is there a benefit of having the email?

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    1. There’s no specific benefit to the email, as the assignments are the same. But you should still be able to receive the emails if you’d like to. Since you’ve ruled out our emails being kept in your spam folder, you might want to contact our support team, where they could look further into what’s causing this issue.

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  4. https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/67427019/747/
    I don’t mean any disrespect whatsoever, but I’m trying to solidify my voice. Of course I’ll accept any constructive criticism along the way, but I’m really here (for now anyway) to get back in the habit of writing and again, solidify the voice I know I once had. Very relaxing exercise. Whoever comes up with these blogs is pure genius. Thank you for the daily push, the inspiration, and the ideas to go places we may have never been. Very much appreciated.

    Like

    1. That was absolutely beautiful. I too want that island. You made it so real. I loved that you would’t pick the flowers so as to maintain their life. I loved almost hearing the belly laughter of your son. The removal of all society to help create and nurture your own personalities. Leaving tech behind and enjoying your favorite pens. Brilliant.

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    1. AS a follower of yours, I read this piece tody, and it brought back a lot of pleasant feelings to me. I spent the past 60 years of my life near ocean beaces, but for the past five have been living landlocked. Your piece echoes my longing for the ocean and the beach.

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    2. I left the following comment on your post:

      “With each grain of sand and each retreating surf one more negative memory was carried away. One more glowing thought entered”. — Absolutely beautiful. This entire piece urges me to go, to meet her as well, to allow myself to hear the same music and feel the same massage. I can totally already feel that dampness under my feet. Thank you for this. Thank you for making me even more excited about this upcoming weekend.

      If you’d like, here was my entry for day # 2. This has been quite the learning experience.
      http://theprettyplatform.com/2014/06/04/a-view-unlike-any-other-writing-101/

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    1. Yes — I see you as enrolled in the challenge!
      Have you checked your spam folder to see if our emails might have ended up there?
      If you still don’t receive our emails, please feel free to contact our Support team.

      Like

    1. I don’t think it should have be longer. Sometimes the less you write, the more meaningful it is. I remember when I was in school my English teacher would tell me that I sometimes make things longer than necessarily.

      Great post, I enjoyed!

      Like

  5. Hi everyone.
    Yesterday, I wrote a free rant which I thought tended to be negative.
    Today, I wrote a piece which got planned as I progressed. I tend to write planned pieces and put large portions of myself in my descriptive.
    I have two questions:
    1. Is the opening paragraph unnecessary, or is it engaging enough?
    2. Are you able to form an image in your mind based solely on my description?

    I’m also looking for feedback on the feelings evoked by this piece. If you read it, please comment on the post itself about how and what it made you feel.
    Here’s the link: http://grammarmantis.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/writing-101-day-2-open-recesses/

    If I can help with some of your work, please let me know.

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    1. Do you have a WordPress.com account? You’ll need to sign up for one here: https://signup.wordpress.com/signup/?user=1

      Then let us know what it is and we can add you to the Commons. With a WordPress.com account, you can follow the Daily Post and then you’ll receive email notifications.

      Assignments are posted here each day at 10 am Eastern:

      https://dailypost.wordpress.com/courses/writing-101-building-a-blogging-habit/

      And also in the Commons at the same time.

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  6. The introduction of this post intrigued me? It really made me think how much we can influence people around us through what we say, do think and show!

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  7. Oh my goodness, y’all, I can’t tell you how much I loved this challenge. I thought about it for several hours before I finally put pen to paper, and I am thankful to you, Ben & co, for motivating me to pull this out. I almost didn’t write because I’ve got so many other things going on, but I got to thinking about that perfect spot and what the heck. Cereal for dinner, right?

    http://andreabadgley.com/2014/06/03/time-travel-to-that-perfect-spot/

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