Sunday, September 29, 2013

Location, Location, Location

How important is it to you where you write? I’m not talking about a desk or in bed or out on the patio, but the location as in a city high-rise where you’ve lived for years or on a farm or near the beach. Do these locations shade your writing? Can you be happy writing a tropical beach scene while you’re heater isn’t working in your drafty Victorian home in the Northeast?

How much influence has your past had on your story locations?  Do you think about it, or do you just make up your locations as needed and then do research to make sure you haven’t placed a stone castle on a particular coastline where it would be impossible for it to exist? Or have you put green grass in Death Valley?

When starting a story, do you already have a place in mind or do you let your characters tell you where they are from and where they want to be?

I asked myself these questions and examined locations I have used. My books are all set in places I have lived in or visited, with the exception of Elena – the Girl with the Piano, set in Russia and Germany. However, I was comfortable with my descriptions in Elena because I had interviewed several people who had lived in those locations post-WWII. Their stories felt so real to me that describing them felt authentic, as if I, too, had been in those places and suffered their pain and anguish.

Keegan Bay Blenders stories take place in an age-qualified trailer part similar to one I lived in for five years, and Escape from Iran speaks for itself. Those who know me also know I spent four years there.
I recently finished a first draft of a futuristic story, Silent Autumn, and had to decide what the United States landscape would be like nearly two hundred years from now. Although I have lived in many parts of the U.S. and traveled across country several times, including the old Route 66 back in the early 60’s, I had to rely on friends who were familiar with various parts of the country to flesh out my scenes. Although I might have changed the course of a river a little, or rebuilt a hospital in another part of a city, (I deliberately changed a little of the geography to suit my characters), the scenes are now as authentic as I could imagine them to be in 2179— you’ll still recognize Pittsburgh.

Think about your own writing. What settings do you use most? Where you have been? Or where do you want to be?

Veronica Helen Hart is the author of the above mentioned books plus many short stories. She is currently on the Board of Directors of The Florida Writers Association and a member of Sisters in Crime, The Ormond Writers League and a weekly critique group. She now makes her home in a “real” house in Ormond Beach, Florida.


Big Mike said...

I once heard of an author who traveled to and lived in a location for a year or more before he wrote his story. I think to establish realism, you either must research the heck out of a place or have resided in the location. Every romantic suspense or political thriller I've penned has the backdrop of a town, city or region where I've lived or stayed. For example, my latest, RIGHTEOUS FURY derived from a week visit to the outer banks NC. Fall in love with the area and the story evolved from those emotions. So yeah, I agree, location is important.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Location for me comes with perspective. I've lived in or visited all my locales.

My first book for Champagne takes place in a northwestern suburb of Atlanta, Marietta, GA. I'd been in Florida for ten years before constructing the scenery for that book.

What sets my mind on fire about the region we'd lived in for 8 years is the change of seasons. Spring in Atlanta goes on for two months. Every week when I drove past the Gov's mansion, something new, trees, shrubs and flowers bloomed in colors an artist wouldn't have dared try to match or mix.

That view had to go into my mystery, Mortal Coil -- stark contrast.

TKToppin said...

Well...since most of my stories are set in the future...I can make stuff up as I go along. But to be perfectly fair, most of the places are 'based on' places I have either been to or read about. In book 3 of the Lancaster Trilogy, where most of the action happens in a remote part of Brazil, I can honestly say that I actually did live there for nearly a year.