My last post was about fictionalizing yourself for the purposes of kicking your story development into gear. This post is along similar lines.
Use places you’ve actually been as settings for your work. Try locations that have had a profound impact on you in some way. Another option is to fictionalize places you’ve been frequently.
Why profound impact or frequency? Your words convey the experience of where you’ve been. Familiarity or repetition produce more data in your mind for you to use in your writing.
I’m sure you’ve heard about big name writers who travel to the location of a proposed novel, stay there for X amount of time, and write their brains out while they’re in town. Well, as newbies, we don’t have the budget to nip off to Kathmandu for a month, or hole up in Las Vegas for just long enough to lose money and generate 20,000 words.
What we’ve got is all the data that remains in our minds from places we’ve been. Take that framework and build your exotic location, or write it as you saw it and experienced it. Either way, you’ve got real experience to feed into the story and your readers will pick up on it.
Since I know my work better than anyone else’s, I’ll give you two examples from my first book, “Blood-soaked and Contagious”. The primary setting of the book is the intersection of Route 29 and Glebe Road in Arlington, Virginia. Why? Every time I go out to the blacksmith shop to beat the snot out of hot metal, I turn left at the traffic light there. Also, it seemed to me that area would be a great place to settle in the middle of a slow zombie apocalypse, because there’s a hardware store one block to the side of that intersection.
Really, if you had to “saunter vaguely downwards” as a civilization, wouldn’t you like to have goods to trade? Of course you would! So I made Frank (the main character) the de facto owner of the store. It made a certain amount of sense, and I think, added a little more realism to the bloody goings on.
Later on in the book, there’s a flashback to the day Frank first hears the news about people coming back to life. He’s hanging out in the Sheep’s Heid pub in Duddingston, Scotland. I’ve been to that pub (to discover the bartender’s sister is married to an American, and they live about 30 minutes away from where I do, here in the Washington, DC area), and it made an impression on me. (To say nothing of the world being WAY TOO SMALL!)
I think you get where I’m going here.
What you’ve done, and where you’ve been, greatly inform your writing. Your feelings and experiences lend reality to the words, and help your reader suspend disbelief. They’ll sink deeper into your story if they can float away on something that feels real, rather than one-dimensional descriptions that gloss over details.
James Crawford www.bloodsoakedandwriting.com @crawford4033 on Twitter