Harnessing the Power of Place in Fiction by Carina Steinbakk

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | The Art of Description
Carina Steinbakk

Carina Steinbakk

In the realm of storytelling, the significance of the setting and place cannot be overstated. Whether your narrative unfolds on the misty moors of Scotland, the rugged fjords of Norway, or the sun-drenched landscapes of Australia, the choice of place can elevate your fiction to new heights. For budding writers seeking to craft compelling narratives, understanding, and harnessing the power of place is a crucial skill.

Growing up as a bit of a nomad, I had the opportunity to experience new places and adapt to new surroundings every two or so years. This nomadic lifestyle quickly became ingrained in my identity. I relished getting lost in my new neighbourhoods in Norway, discovering the quiet nooks of Glasgow, the gloomy alleys of Aberdeen, or the hidden coves of Queensland—all of which became wellsprings of inspiration for my writing.

In the world of fiction, the setting is more than just a backdrop; it is a dynamic character that interacts with and influences the plot and characters. Just as a character’s actions and personality shape the story, the chosen setting can exert a profound impact. Consider the mist-shrouded landscapes of Scotland, where the brooding atmosphere of ancient castles and craggy cliffs creates an eerie and mysterious ambiance that seeps into the very fabric of your narrative.

Effective storytelling is an immersive experience, and the chosen setting is a powerful tool for sensory engagement. Australia’s vast and diverse landscapes provide a canvas for a sensory extravaganza—from the rustle of eucalyptus leaves in the Outback to the scent of the sea along the Great Barrier Reef. Engage your readers’ senses, allowing them to taste, smell, and feel the environment as if they were there.

I think about places as their own little bubbles, each with its unique personality. Norway became a practical outdoorsman who specialises in folklore, with a sharp eye, a shaggy appearance, a firm handshake, and someone you could rely on. Scotland was the cozy midwife, offering warm hugs, always ready to lend an ear, but don’t you dare cross her because she would give you an earful. Meanwhile, Australia would be a laid-back surfer dude, with too much time on his hands, a nature lover, and the guy you call when you need to relax and have a laugh. Each place carries a unique cultural identity, and integrating these nuances into your writing can add depth and authenticity to your story. Whether incorporating traditional customs, local dialects, or folklore, these details can transport readers to a different world and make your story resonate.

Flames of EaderMy debut novel’s title, Flames of Eader, an urban fantasy, has strong ties to my favourite country, namely Scotland. ‘Eader’ is from the Scottish Gaelic ‘Eadar,’ meaning between. Using Scottish Gaelic, Māori, Norwegian, and more in my books was crucial as it tells the tale of a border realm protecting our world from darkness. The Guardians of this realm are descendants from all cultures and races. Examples include Manawa, the literal heart of Eader, derived from Māori meaning ‘heart,’ and Laoch-Mor, nicknamed ‘Lay,’ meaning Great Warrior in Scottish Gaelic. One piece of advice is to do the proper homework when using different languages.

The setting can be more than a passive backdrop; it can drive the plot and contribute to the conflicts your characters face. Imagine a story set against the backdrop of the rugged Australian bush, where the vastness becomes a metaphor for the challenges the characters must overcome. The untamed nature of the setting can mirror the internal struggles of the protagonists, adding depth and complexity to the narrative. In Flames of Eader, the protagonist Grey grew up on the streets, where the comparison with the magical Eader becomes a stark contrast between not just locations, but also reality and imagination.

Places often carry symbolic weight, serving as metaphors for themes and emotions. Scotland’s misty landscapes might symbolise uncertainty or hidden truths, while the fjords of Norway could represent the depths of the human psyche. By incorporating symbolic elements tied to the setting, you can add layers of meaning to your story.

As you embark on your writing journey, remember that the importance of place extends beyond mere geography. Whether you choose the haunting landscapes of Scotland, the rich cultural tapestry of Norway, or the diverse terrain of Australia, the setting can be a powerful ally in crafting a memorable and impactful story. Embrace the unique qualities of your chosen locale, allowing it to shape characters, drive conflicts, and imbue your narrative with a sense of authenticity. By mastering the art of utilising place in fiction, you open the door to a world of storytelling possibilities that captivate readers and leave a lasting impression.

(c) Carina Steinbakk

Website: carinasteinbakk.com

Instagram: @flamesofeader

About Flames of Eader:

Flames of EaderDo you believe in magic?
Do you have that nagging feeling that there has to be more out there?
Are you still waiting on that letter from Hogwarts, wishing you could enrol at Basgiath, or thinking you might have a godly parent and you should be off to camp-halfblood?
Read on!

We all know that there should be a balance between light and darkness. However, in recent years, the increase in violence, terrorism, wars, and hatred has given more power to the Darkness. Now imagine a barrier that protects us from this Darkness. Eader is that realm that shields the Earth.
However, Eader is gradually becoming weak. In the battle between light and darkness, darkness is slowly gaining the upper hand. Enter Grey O’Shearan, a reclusive nerd living on Earth, who then quite unexpectedly finds himself in the magical realm of Eader.

Why does Grey find his way to Eader? What role does he play in the battle between light and darkness? Will he, a man who tries to stay away from people, be able to trust the ones he meets in Eader? Most importantly, will Grey be able to save Eader, and in the process, Earth?

Order your copy online here. and here.

About the author

Carina is a fantasy novelist who has a love for magic, science and strong heroes. She always looks to dive beneath the layers of a character, and find what makes them tick, as well as bringing on the action and make imaginations run wild.

Being born and raised in Norway, she has a passion for nature and legends, more of which she found when living in Scotland. Now residing in Gold Coast, Australia, and when she isn’t writing, she works full time as a development manager for renewable energy projects, while also running her own tech startup, Aevi Tech, supporting herself and her fluff ball, Brady the Australian Shepherd. For fun she reads, goes for drives in her Jeep ‘Darth’ and makes up names and stories for inanimate objects in her life.

Visit her website at www.CarinaSteinbakk.co.uk for more!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books