quaranTEEN voices Writing Prompt: 'Where It's At'

News —— July 27, 2020

Special guest Pitchaya Sudbanthad joins us for this week’s quaranTEEN voices! Pitchaya is the author of Bangkok Wakes to Rain, which was selected as a notable book of the year by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and was a finalist for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Firmly grounded in place, the linked stories in the book follow a cast of characters as they deal with climate change, class stratification, loss, and disconnection. Pitchaya currently splits his time living in Bangkok and Brooklyn.

From Pitchaya Sudbanthad:

Think of the stories you love most. It could be a tale from a book or family histories that get told and retold over holiday meals. Where do they take place? Would it be the same if these stories take place somewhere else? Could they ever?

A lot of people think of place as a fixed, physical location, somewhere you can map. But in many stories, place refuses to be mere background or setting. It pulls and pushes; it can be there, but not always. In literature, place often helps to not only make a story feel more real to a reader but also to reveal it.

Prompt 1:
Pick a place you feel you know really well. You’re trying to tell someone about this place, but you can only do so by describing three objects. They could be anything from the place. Which objects do you choose? These three objects can help open up the sense of a larger world and time, maybe even a life. Make them count.

Prompt 2:
A place can mean something different to every person. Think of a place, real or imaginary. Now think of two characters there. Write one paragraph for each: they’re talking about some event that has happened at that place. How do the characters feel about this place, and why does that make their perspective different? What specifics about this place are helping to tell the reader about these characters—perhaps more than the characters could know?

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