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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.

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 signed up for Writing 101 the first day it was announced, but I can’t access the Commons. It shows me a protected blog page marked private. Can you give me access? Thanks.

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  2. Is there a way to save a draft and not post it to my blog but still be able to share it here for feedback?I don’t want to publish my day 2 but would like some people to see it and find out what they think.

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    1. You could publish it without publicizing it (announcement to facebook, google, etc). And remember to add the tag #wwwriting101. After a couple of days, if you feel it is not good enough for your blog, you can delete the post, or edit and polish it. That’s the approach I’m taking.

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      1. Okay, and I have one more question: Do I have to check the box by “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” in order to catch replies here (and on the next days’ posts)? I didn’t get a notification in reader (or a WordPress notification if that’s what it’s called). I came back and searched the page.

        Thanks for your help!

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      2. Hi @WolfhoundJesse, yes, you need to check the box next to “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” to get an email notification of a new comment on the thread.

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  3. I loved this question, I know who a place can make a never leaving impression on you. It’s the combination of the place itself, the people you were with, the time but mostly what you felt during your stay there. I took this opportunity to write of my most memorable place or rather moment when I was in Africa.
    love Hadewych

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    1. I enjoyed the factual tone of your post – there’s a place for short and to-the-point (I’m lazy and pressed for time, so my posts are mostly short too :)). But the descriptive part above the picture is lovely and if you wanted to, maybe you could flesh it out a bit.

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    1. Not all themes show categories and tags near the post. You might want to experiment by trying new themes to see others that will show them. I wish I had a list of those themes that show categories and tags to give you.

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  4. I don’t know how to link it, but today’s assignment on my blog is called Room with a View… Day 2. Maybe by day 10 I’ll grasp the concept of linking… Enjoy. I know I sure did.

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    1. If it helps, you can just paste the entire URL into the comment you’re making and it’ll automatically turn it into a clickable link!

      http://ashkej.wordpress.com/the-ubiquitous-about-me-page/

      If you want to have the link ‘hidden’ behind your own words that are clickable then you have to put in a nifty bit of code. If you click below and look at the reply from mlopezart then that should help! :)

      http://wordpress.org/support/topic/how-to-directly-hyperlink

      Dom

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    2. Just click the title of your post and then copy the web address with Strg. + C, then insert it here with Strg + V. That’s all. Loved your island, it sounds like a peaceful place. :)

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