Setting a scene

I have just finished reading “The Knowledge” by Steven Pressfield. It’s a great book, from one of Seth Godin’s recommendations.

In the UK, “The Knowledge” is a test all taxi drivers need to pass. Drivers are tested on London’s maze of tiny streets in minute detail. It’s the basis for getting customers there in the quickest time possible. A map in your head, laid out and ready to go as soon as you pull out into the streets. No SatNav, no google – good to go immediately.

True to the title, Pressfield’s novel is chock full of street level detail and scenery – mainly of New York City – mapped out as background for the events to unfold. The streets, restaurants, subways, parks and buildings are support for the work he is doing. I never thought of writing in this way – leaning on the scenery so much – but it works incredibly well. In fact when I think about it, Frank Herbert does the same in Dune.

As a writer, I am learning from these books that building up a sense of place and a scene in detail creates trust with the reader. The reader is convinced that the writer knows what they are talking about and then is willing to believe the rest of the story.

Interesting tactic and worth a try.