I have enjoyed so many books, but some stick with me longer than others. And more often than not, it’s because of where they took me. Not just on good adventures to a fun place, not just the great people you miss when you close the book, but somewhere that returns to you long after you’ve finished reading. What stories have left you with false memories? Places that have been so well written, you almost feel them as your own memory? Not just what happened there but how they felt and how they smelled.
I know many people feel that way about Hogwarts. Gryffindor’s common room is such a place. Readers long to revisit the books just to go back to Hogwarts. But where else does your mind wander when you’re drifting along through your day?
I have many places. I love so many books, but the stories that leave me thinking of actual places seem to stay with me longer than others. Here are just a few locations that return to me when I least expect and leave me recalling places that take me a moment to realize are not real.
- The tiny room in Renee’s home. (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)
- Rodri’s small kitchen on Ullaness. (Women of the Dunes)
- The orchid where Buck, Kate, and Trav hung out. (Remembering the Good Times)
- John Gregory’s home and library. (The Spook’s Apprentice series)
- BlackThorn’s shop. (The Blackthorn Key series)
- The Hills on the Isle of Torrnish (Little Bird Flies)
These are just a few that come to mind. It’s not to say that stories that have not left me with such odd memories are no good; they just didn’t leave that type of impression. You often hear that location and world-building is so important, but sometimes a place becomes more than just background; it becomes a character in the story. Again, Hogwarts could be described as a main character. Some readers have more of a bond with the school than with the characters.
Of course, not every story will take place in one location that becomes familiar to the reader. It’s just that for me, the stories that have well-developed sets stay in my brain more vividly than others. It’s the same for Picture Books. The spreads of homes or scenery have me linger and enjoy longer before turning a page.
Stories will always take us somewhere, and for some of us, that’s the hope: escaping our own reality and visiting someone else’s. The story, plot, and characters keep us distracted and engaged, but it’s often the location that makes it an immersive visitation. Whether using words or art, establish a place for your reader to visit in their mind’s eye again and again.
Don’t underestimate a comfy armchair and a pair of old boots by the door. Especially if the crackling fire has left them both with a smokey smell no matter how much they’ve been aired out in nice weather.