Five Great Quotations about Passion for Writing
Writing Prompt: Out-of-place character

Avoid reader confusion by anchoring story

Readers Anchorbeginning a story need to know where and when the tale occurs. This establishment of the story’s place and time in the first few paragraphs of the story sometimes is referred to as anchoring.

Without such anchoring, most readers will imagine that the story occurs in a different place and time than the author intended. This can lead to confusion later in the story when the author provides details that conflict with this imagined anchor. Or worse, without such anchoring, the reader will be disoriented from the start (Of course, such disorientation may be intentional – for example, if the main character has amnesia – but this strategy only works for a fraction of all tales written.).

The author need not get too specific about the place and time. That the story occurs in a large city probably is more important to know than giving the exact metropolis. In fact, giving the city’s name can be limiting as the author now must give details specific to that community. That the story occurs in the future is more important to know than giving the exact year. Indeed, in stories written during the 20th century that were set in the then far-off future year of “1999” are now out of date.

In addition, the author should avoid using exposition to provide the place and time. For example, rather than telling “It was noon in a summer day in the city” show it by writing “The glare of the sun directly overhead left every driver in the traffic jam worried about their car overheating from the air conditioner set on full blast.” The latter infers that it’s the lunch hour on a hot day in a metro area.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like St. Louis, Missouri, or a small town like Cheesequake, New Jersey, I can provide that second eye.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)