How do we create the places we know into word form? It’s not as easy as it seems. We know what’s there, we can shut our eyes and imagine being there, but our readers might struggle unless we give them enough stimuli to make it possible. We go to some places over and over again, their images are ingrained in our minds, so if we see a photo we can add the sounds, smells and tastes of that location. To describe a place is a lot harder than it looks.
Lets take to humble coffee or tea shop, here are a few tips I could give you though for helping elevate the scene in your head to the page in front of you. The next time you’re somewhere try these few actions.
Imagine its your first time in the place,
What are your first impressions?
What hits you first?
What does the place smell of?
Is it noisy or quiet?
Do people notice you have entered?
Are the staff friendly?
Are they knowledgeable, chatty, stressed?
Is there a long queue?
Do they know you and greet you like a friend or as a burden?
What does the place feel like – is it warm, cold, friendly, austere?
Does it feel like homely?
Does it feel just a place to eat and go?
Who’s in the coffee shop?
What are they doing?
Any interesting characters?
Are they known to the staff?
A lot of these take time to do. Try closing your eyes at times and hearing and feeling the atmosphere. That helps a lot. Make notes while you’re doing it so you can pick them out when you commit it to paper. Remember the scene could be converted anywhere in the country.