Wednesday, January 08, 2020

OTM 2009 Blog Tour - Traveling Fiction: Places in Story

CRR Blog Tour – November 2009
Host: Sue Perkins Nov 5

This post originally appeared at the above link. You can still go find it there.

Permalink to the Tour Stops

Hi Sue! Thanks for hosting me here today!

I was perusing your blog the other day and noticed you and your husband have done a lot of traveling. My husband and I also like to travel as much as we can. Such a great experience, with a wealth of information to be gained. Since I use a lot of my own journeys and explorations within my stories, I thought I’d talk a bit today about Traveling Fiction: Places In Story.

Setting can be only a place where a story happens or it can be a character in itself. I have done some of both within my novels. Always, though, the setting should have some kind of effect on characters. We are, after all, products partially of our environments. Our society determines many of our thoughts and attitudes. If we grow up in the midst of a huge city, we will have a different outlook than if we grow up in the midst of cornfields.

So how do we choose where our characters will be set? Sometimes the story plot tells us. For instance, if I’m writing a Civil War novel and want the main character to be a Union soldier, I need to have it set in a northern state, or at least have his home state mentioned and affecting his attitudes. Other times, we use places that interest us or places we’ve been.

I grew up in central Illinois in the midst of cornfields, but I had relatives who lived in Chicago. We didn’t get to go visit often, as it took nearly three hours of driving each way, but when we did I couldn’t get enough of checking out the skyscrapers, first from a distance and then from along the city streets. I also had a huge fascination with Lakeshore Drive and turned in my seat to keep my eyes peeled on the boats along the shore and out on the lake. I’m still fascinated by Chicago, although I wouldn’t choose to live there because of its size. I used that feeling of awe, however, when I wrote my first novel, Finishing Touches. Set mainly in Peoria, and a small unnamed town outside Peoria where Jenna grew up, it often jumps into Chicago. The city becomes a character in the way it pulls Jenna’s spirit and encourages her to stretch her wings, leave the past behind, and grow. Of course being from the Peoria area gave me plenty of detail to use within the story. It also helped me know Jenna’s character from her home roots.

When I first started writing the Rehearsal series, I knew it had to be set elsewhere. The story revolves around a rock band struggling to make their way in the business and so they had to be closer to the music scene. I didn’t want them in New York or Los Angeles, but slightly off that too-well-beaten fictional path. By this time, I had moved four times and one of the places I’d lived was Massachusetts. I fell in absolute love with it while there and decided that was close enough to the music scene. I put them just outside Boston, about a half hour west. None of my featured characters, however, are from there. They are all outsiders with different backgrounds merging in a fictional town in the midst of actual towns mentioned in the story. Two of the main characters are from Pennsylvania. Why? During family travels I fell in love with the state. It was only after the first book of the series was published that we decided to move to PA. Another main character is from Scotland, for the simple reason that I needed him to be a foreigner and I had always wanted to visit the country. Book two of the series is partially set in Edinburgh and was published just after my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. Again, first-hand detail helped make the scenes more vivid. Since my fictional band tours, you’ll also pick up bits and pieces of other places I’ve lived and visited. My guess is that you’ll know from the description which I have.

Off The Moon is set half in New York City, because this one needed the beaten path for my character, and half in Bennington, Vermont, with visits to London and Montana. I have been to NYC, briefly, and again, I made mental note of enough detail to add a reality I couldn’t get with only research. I haven’t yet been to Vermont. The distance of it worked well for the story, plus I needed a large lake and small town atmosphere. Ryan barely knows Bennington himself, since he grew up a military brat and his family settled there just before he took off on his own. My own lack of real detail meshes with his. There should be a noticeable difference in the way he describes NYC and the way he describes Bennington. Since everything in the story comes from his own deep point of view and the reader knows nothing he doesn’t know, the haziness works well. I do have plans to visit, though. Researching places for my novels always makes me want to go see them.

I have a true travel bug. Luckily, I get to take my readers along for the ride. Next stop: Idaho, Twin Falls area.

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