Shifting Perceptions: Showing Spatial Relationships in Writing

Shifting Perceptions: Showing Spatial Relationships in Writing


Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, there’s a lot to consider when capturing a world in words. One important factor is how we relate to our bodies and the spaces and objects around them, as well as how that changes over time. It’s a matter of perception that can make your writing more true to life.



At various points in our development, we see ourselves in different ways. How we regard the shapes and sizes of our bodies can be a bit tricky. For example, maybe you felt super tall after a childhood growth spurt, but looking back on photos now, you don’t think you look all that tall. And, as we grow older, our relationship to space changes. The smaller we are, the larger the space around us seems, and vice versa. Often, this change happens subtly over many years, so we don’t always notice it.



If, for instance, you’re describing a setting from a child’s point of view, you might focus on how large a space looks and feels. Then, that same exact setting seems smaller when viewed through the eyes of an adult. The amount of space hasn’t really changed, only the way that different people relate to it. People’s opinions of a certain type of space might also change over time. A child who is comforted by small spaces might grow into an adult who finds them too confining.



Shifts in perception apply to objects as well. Think about your classroom desk and chair from the second grade, for example. At the time, they probably seemed just the right size. But, if you were to see them now, they’d look ridiculously small to you. And, you might even find it hard to remember being that small yourself.


Taking these complications into account when you write, you can create new settings or describe existing ones in ways that better show relationships between your characters and the spaces they inhabit, as well as the objects they encounter.