Day 30: Small town charm or far off places?

It’s time to talk about setting. 🙂 My current story is set in a small town, because that was my only frame of reference for being a teenager, back when I was one and envisioned this story. It suits the plot fine, too, since I wanted to focus on a relatively small group of characters in a sort-of run down area.

The next story that I write, not-coincidentally, I want to set in Salt Lake City, because that is the city I am most familiar with, and I want that city vibe even though my character spends most of her time at home. That story will involve much less action and much more technology, but it could also use a little downtown flair.

I have never written stories set in places that I am unfamiliar with. Even though I’m terrible at setting a scene anyway, I’ve simply never tried. I know that theoretically I could research a city, or a country, and place my character inside it, but the idea just makes me oddly sad. If I’m going to write about Ireland, or New York City, or Chicago, then I want to have some personal experience with that place before I write it. Maybe it’s the way my brain is different, but I feel like no amount of research could endow me with the feeling of a place I’ve never set foot in. Sure, my character could eat at the local places or work at a downtown shop, but that by itself doesn’t create authenticity.

Additionally, I’ve always had a sort of travel-desperation. I don’t just want to travel. I feel like I need to travel, desperately, even though I know that’s hyperbolic of me. So for me, researching a place I’ve always wanted to go like Ireland or New York City (nothing against Chicago, but I could live without seeing it) would be a tad depressing. Learning about it in facts would just underscore what I think that I could love about it.

I have done some stateside travelling in my time. Thanks to the driving acumen of my partner, I’ve been as far east as Illinois and as far south as California, none of which was true before we met. I could probably write very believably about characters on road trips, in fact, just as I could write convincingly about homelessness or poverty. But touching on a state like Iowa (lovely!) or Nebraska (less than ideal!) is not the same thing as living there, so I’ll likely to stick to writing the few kinds of settings that I know: small Pacific Northwest towns, groovy college cities and polite Midwestern metropolises.

Someday, if we win the lottery, publishing or otherwise, maybe I’ll get to experience new places that I can add to my repertoire. For now, what about you? Do you create characters who live where you have, or where you wish that you did? Do you prefer to research your settings or draw from experience?

Today’s word count: 2,021

Total word count: 72,630

Today’s excerpt: “I spoke to Liam earlier,” Mel said after a moment. “He told me what you said, about being an ostrich.”

Rina laughed. “Did he really call it that?”

“He said you called it that.”

“I did, but he didn’t understand it at the time, so that’s funny.” She sighed. “Yeah, that’s what I said. That’s what I figured out.”

Mel stared at the horizon. She couldn’t see it yet, but the sun was coming. She could feel it.

“I really am sorry, Mel,” Rina blurted out. “I couldn’t tell you, about the visions, and about how scared I was.”

“Couldn’t?”

“Okay, I wouldn’t. If I had told you about it, I would have had to face it, and I wasn’t ready to do that. It was too much for me. But hurting you was never something that I wanted to be doing. It wasn’t like me, this last year, and I’m sorry.”

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Day 30: Small town charm or far off places?

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