Among the elements of fiction – conflict, character, and place – I could argue for any one of them being the more palpable, the key to quality story. Conflict is the engine. No question about that. But place…world-building…the environment in which the story happens – that is central.
I have a fellow writer who recently wrote a poem about walking through the Atlanta airport and how alone she felt among so many people. There is so much truth in that. How does that happen? How does a place illicit universal feeling and emotion? How do our psyches and souls become intertwined with physical spaces?
And it seems that the further you go back, into youth and then into childhood, the greater this phenomena becomes. Pause in those memories and place will tug, transport, and consume.
Place is unique among the elements of fiction. Practice reverence in constructing where your stories will unfold. And know that if the place you create lifts off the page it could, just maybe, transform into a character.
And that would be a gift.