The Personality of Places
Copyright © 2008 by Koneko, All Rights Reserved
Your instincts tell you things about people, but they also tell you
about places. Places are older than people. They have age, and they have
history. Over the years, they've had more people walk in them than we
could ever imagine and, because of who's been there and what's happened,
they've developed their own personalities.
Like everything else in your life, this can be used in your writing. The
home of your hero can be so welcoming and wonderful that your readers,
too, will want to fight for it. The country your good guys fight against
can feel dark and terrible so that your readers will dislike it as much
as your characters. A small manor house can seem imposing where a large
one is more relaxing, and a seemingly innocent stone circle can be a
symbol for blood and death.
My first example is London, England. It was marshland, once, and it's
had a human settlement for as long as history and archaeology can tell
us. People and animals have been born and lived there, and they've died
there, too. Over time, it became the city it is today, but there was a
lot of bloodshed along the way. Perhaps the most famous of its landmarks
is the Tower of London, where countless people have died in pain and
torment. The Tower itself is a proud, bloody-clothed Lord, standing
strong despite slippery foundations.
London itself has been bloody since it was Londinium, in Roman times. If
you have London, you can hold the entire country in your grasp, because
even though it's so low down it's the heart of the country. From London
you can get anywhere, and until the ships got too big to get up the
Thames, it was a major port city. Its streets were, and still are, rife
London is like the Tower. It's tall, strong, and filled with bloody,
passionate vibrancy. It constantly grows and changes, keeping the old
and bringing in the new. It -- or rather, he -- feels like he will
always be there, because he says he will in a stiff-necked, old-codger
Then again, there's Colchester. Before Boadiccea got there, it was
Camulodunum, the Roman capital. It is said that it is the most haunted
town in the country and, seemingly, you can't go ten yards without
hitting some sort of historical location.
Yet Colchester seems a lot cleaner than London. The castle itself is
battered by man and time. Colchester Castle has foundations from the old
Roman temple that anyone can go and see, if you feel brave enough to
dare the slippery steps down, but it is far from being a proud, strong
person. Instead, it feels like a worn, tired, broken old lady who's
endured tests and tribulations and been reduced to half her size. Quite
literally, in fact -- I think there should be more to her, that her
current height should be twice as high as it is now.
Where the Tower, and London, are vibrant and loud, Colchester and her
Castle are quiet and calm. There are no ghosts in the castle herself,
just a constant feeling of being watched; and the town itself gives off
a peaceful feel. In comparison to London, this is someone who knows the
score -- someone who's been there, done that, and would like to settle
down and rest now, please.
Every town, city, and village has its own personality, its own feel.
Some are easier to learn than others, and some might seem to have none
at all. A place's personality isn't just the land it's built on, the
type of settlement, the age of the settlement, or the history and the
people who live there. It's the sum of all those things, and a lot
greater than all those things put together.
If your story doesn't need this level of world building, that's fine. If
it does, though, and you pull it off... wouldn't it just make your story