Writing 101: 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 and use the template to help you focus. 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. This one will be difficult for me since my blog is less about story telling and more about history and social politics of Black hair. I’ll do my best though! I’m thinking about a short poem…I’ll post it as soon as I can!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I changed my email settings, but I did not see a way to select what/who is sending me daily emails. I would like to simply receive daily emails from this course and then weekly emails for everything else that I am following through WordPress.

        I find that I am spending too much time figuring out what is going on, and not getting to actually writing. Is there an outline for the course anywhere? I was on a mountain on day 1 and missed my chance to prepare for the course.

        Thank you for your help.


  2. I changed my tagline a year ago. Because it is a mishmash of Japanese vs. Southern American, recipes, haiku, etc. I captitalized on the lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh My! to “East meets South: Haiku, Musings, Recipes, Serendipity – oh my!” It says it all.


  3. If I could go anywhere back in time it would be to an obscure little mining town in the middle of nowhere, with nothing more than scraggly trees and dry aired heat. Where temperatures soared into the hundreds, an unattractive place for the uninitiated, but the happiest days for me, when our precious children were small, and our love soared high and held no bounds.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hi Everyone!
    This is the opening to a post about my visit to a Mexican penitentiary.
    Does the introduction of this post intrigue you? How can I improve it?

    “The tires crunched as Vivian drives her SUV slowly into the gravel parking lot. We have arrived at Mascota penitentiary. Now that my visit is a reality I’m a bit intimidated….”

    I look forward to hearing from you!



  5. I linked the challenged to my post but the links appears broken. Is it normal? just let me know so I could then copy/paste the assignment instead. Thanks a lot