Discover the five things I’ve learned about the focal point of all great writing: Location. Location, Location.
How do the most successful writers so effectively transport their readers to another era, to another planet, to Timbuktu, or to a dark, rainy Paris street during World War II? To date, I’ve written 19 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series and a historical standalone, Three Hours in Paris. In the process, I’ve thought a great deal about how a strong sense of place can immediately engage a story’s readers and how essentially location establishes a story’s themes and characters, shapes its plot, and determines the narrative’s possibilities.
I live in San Francisco, but each of my Aimée Leduc mysteries are set in Paris. In part because I work so hard to establish an authentic sense of that wonderful city, I’ve been fortunate to be recognized for my writing. I’ve received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture—and invitations to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. I also know that my writing travels: With more than 400,000 books in print, the Aimée Leduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.
In this online class, I’ll share the five things I’ve found most essential to my own ability to establish a strong sense of place, no matter the subject or location. A good part of creating a vivid sense of place is linked to preparation: Each time I return to Paris I make a point of entrenching myself in a different part of the city, learning its secret history. I’ve posed as a journalist to sneak into closed areas, trained at a firing range with real Paris flics, gotten locked in a bathroom at the Victor Hugo museum, and even gone down into the sewers with the rats so that my heroine Aimée can complete the same journey in a way that feels genuine and authentic to my readers.
I’m hoping to share a couple of these wonderful stories with you, but our time together will focus on some other essential strategies you can employ to make the settings in your stories come alive for your readers. I’ll share the ways I research a location before I sit down to write — what I first need to understand about a place before I can even begin a draft, the kinds of details I search for to make things vivid for my readers, and how later I focus my research once writing is underway. I’ll share how I invoke the five senses to bring key details to live in my writing; and the ways I use emotions and feelings to deepen, contrast, or complement the story’s essential elements. I’ll also share my thoughts about what I call “writer’s immersion,” and how this technique helps me uncover the most important, most telling details that keep my story moving forward.
It’s a lot to cover in a single sitting, but I’m confident you’ll find our time together worthwhile. When our class has concluded, you’ll know what it’s taken me a long time to discover for myself about the ways that a strong sense of place establishes everything else in a story. If you’re a writer, the things I’ve learned are sure to help you to compose your own more effective narratives no matter your subject or style—in fiction, non-fiction, memoir, or travel essay.
A strong sense of place anchors readers and draws them into the story. If you’re a reader, this class will give you a behind-the-scenes, personal glimpse at the ways my mysteries are crafted and assembled.
I hope you’ll join me.