Writing Locations—Should You Have Been There First?
- February 20, 2017
- 2 Comments
I’ve read books that were so elegantly crafted with a sense of place, I assumed the authors had traveled to those exotic locales. And then I’d read an interview where they’d say, “Nope, just did a lot of research.”
I’ve tried, really I have, but the fear of making a mistake a local would catch keeps me from doing the same. So if you read about a location in my stories, chances are 99.9 percent positive I’ve been there. That’s not a bad thing—if anything, it’s a good excuse to travel. But the knowledge, the feeling I have in my bones for the city I grew up in and the surrounding areas allows me to use the default key in my head and weave the story around it.
Of course the negative is that I might assume things that an outsider wouldn’t know. But I also assume readers don’t need to have everything handed to them on a silver platter. Readers are smart. They’ll pick up the rhythm and figure it out.
As for places I’ve been to on vacation, I don’t claim to know enough. That’s when I ask the locals, even while I’m soaking up the sun. It’s a strong mix that allows me to make the place real on the page.
So what about you? Do you need to visit an area before you can place it in a story?
Most of the time—maybe 99%—I’ve been to the location. If not, I speak to someone that knows the place well. As for today’s photo. I live a couple of blocks away!
Fantastic energy in your neighborhood! I adore the Strand Bookstore. (Although I just realized it’s been a while since I’ve been in Forbidden Planet so I guess I should drop in one of these days.)