A sense of place anchors a short story. Expertly created, a sense of location places our feet in the world of the short story, and makes the reader feel that they have really ‘been there.’
We asked award-winning short story writer Courttia Newland, recent guest editor of The Good Journal, to tell us about his favourite three stories that use a sense of place.
Delhi, Vandana Singh (Read for free on Lightspeed Magazine)
It’s the details that make this location work special. Everything is rendered in simple beauty, and yet carefully chosen to underpin Singh’s themes – which sometimes only become apparent on close second or third reading – and these make it an excellent story to teach.
Filamo, Irenosen Okojie (in An Unreliable Guide to London, pub. Influx Press)
Here, Okojie evokes a sense of mood, a restlessness of time and place that conjures an emotional response to place above the actual. It seeps into your bones and arrests you, and makes you want to be there all at once. A vivid, heightened use of place as a jump into the realms of imagination.
Class Trip, Victor Lavelle (in Slapboxing With Jesus)
Raw and gritty, nothing in this story is placed to make the reader feel comfortable. It challenges our senses, and the environmental details are chosen to do likewise. You can’t literally feel the grime beneath your fingers. And yet there’s beauty in even the darkest places, and Lavelle’s adept at bringing these to our attention and making them sing.
Courttia Newland is teaching our “In Your Place” writing workshop on Saturday 1st June, 2.00 at Carriageworks Leeds. Book tickets here. If you would like to attend but are on PIP, Universal Credit, or a low income and can’t afford to come, please email us as we have some free / reduced price places. [northernshortstoryfestival at gmail.com]
Courttia Newland is the author of seven works of fiction, including The Gospel According to Cane. His short stories have appeared in Best of British Short Stories 2017 and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. He co-edited IC3: The Penguin Book of Black Writing In Britain.