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Dorothy Allison :: Writing About Place is More than Just Space

“I cannot abide a story told to me by a numb, empty voice that never responds to anything that’s happening, that doesn’t express some feelings in response to what it sees. Place is not just what your feet are crossing to get to somewhere. Place is feeling, and feeling is something a character expresses. More, it is something the writer puts on the page—articulates with deliberate purpose. If you keep giving me these eyes that note all the details—if you tell me the lawn is manicured but you don’t tell me that it makes your character both deeply happy and slightly anxious—then I’m a little bit frustrated with you. I want a story that’ll pull me in. I want a story that makes me drunk. I want a story that feeds me glory. And most of all, I want a story I can trust. I want a story that is happening in a real place, which means a place that has meaning and that evokes emotions in the person who’s telling me the story. Place is emotion.”

From “Place” by Dorothy Allison, posted on the Tin House blog, originally published in The Writer’s Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House.

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