Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sense of place (3)

I’ve pondered the issue of sense of place in the last two posts because I find it fascinating. My reading at present is largely from the American south, and there is clearly an American south voice, even to the extent that I, who have never visited the place, can recognise it. The rhythms, particularly of the dialogue, are unmistakable.

In my own writing, however, a sense of place comes across hardly at all. I have written a few stories in the Scots language and they do work pretty well, but I tend to steer clear of it because it strongly limits the outlets for it: unless you’re Irvine Welsh, stories written in Scots are a hard sell. And so I write in English, and I write about places which might be England or might be Scotland or might be anywhere else, for that matter. There is no strong sense of place in my locations, or in the sentiments of my characters or in their motivations.

That could well explain why, so often, they feel flat and unconvincing. Perhaps I need to rediscover my sense of place. Unfortunately, that's not as easy as it sounds. My roots are strongly Scottish, and that is where I consider home, and yet I haven't lived there for twenty-two years. My current home is Yorkshire, but I have no sense of belonging here, not in the sense that I have been describing in these posts. I could no more try to write from the psyche of a Yorkshireman than I could a Martian.

It's an interesting quandary.

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