Monday, September 06, 2010

Writers Framed by Place and Places Framed by Writers

I’ve been asked to present a workshop on The Place of Place in Mystery Writing at the Write on the Sound Conference ( October 2nd and 3rd – Edmonds, WA). Since I’m in the midst of researching material and creating writing exercises to expand the workshop into a series of classes, this seems like a good opportunity to share ideas and invite feedback – so here goes!


Raymond Chandler is so strongly identified with the settings he choose for his stories that these places are now defined by him. Chandler’s books are synonymous with Los Angles and a mini-industry has sprung up in L.A., taking mystery fans tours of places that he used as settings or as haunting images to plant in the reader’s mind:


Mars flicked the Luger out again and pointed it at my chest. "Open the door."


The knob rattled and a voice called out. I didn't move. The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel, but I didn't move. Not being bullet proof is an idea I had had to get used to.

From The Big Sleep

Chandler made the Bryson Tower Apartments famous too:

He drove down to Wilshire and we turned east again.


Twenty-five minutes brought us to the Bryson Tower, a white stucco palace with fretted lanterns in the forecourt and tall date palms. The entrance was in an L, up marble steps, through a Moorish archway, and over a lobby that was too big and a carpet that was too blue. Blue Ali Baba oil jars were dotted around, big enough to keep tigers in. There was a desk and a night clerk with one of those mustaches that get stuck under your fingernail.
From Trouble is My Business

Try it!

Describe the setting of your short story or book as if it were a person. Describe her…How does she walk and talk? Dress? Interact with people? Is she transparent or does she hold secrets? You get the idea…