Hello my friends. Welcome back!
Lately I’ve been thinking about locations. Why? Well, I live in southern California and recently I’ve decided that the weather is bi-polar. Yep. I’ve taken to wearing tank tops with a coat just so I’m prepared for any eventuality. Being on the coast, we have such a thing called “May Gray” and “June Gloom.” It’s a time of year where we get a cloudy maritime layer of yuck over the city for the better part of the day and the sweet Cali sun will bust through. This year the weather seems to be flip-flopping a bit more than usual and I find I have to change my clothing at least once a day to follow suit.
Annoying sometimes as a resident. Intriguing as a Writer.
This got me thinking about all the books I’ve read that were based on real cities and places. I really love it when authors do this. The fact that I could board a plane to Forks, Washington or Manhattan, New York and follow the steps of the character; see the sights they saw and ate where they ate is very appealing. There’s a kind of grounding in reality with this kind of setting. Blue sky. Green grass. Neon lights. Yapping dogs. It’s comforting and familiar and it makes me that much more connected to the book.
I’ve set my “Silver Sun” story partly in my own city. I love being able to share a walk down Main Street with my readers and describe the smell of Thai food mixing with the pizza place across the street. I can include real live people (with permission of course) that I’ve talked to, like my favorite postal worker and my cat’s veterinarian. Not to mention its kind of cheating. There’s no need to make up a city and people to interact with. They’re already pre-set for the writing!
It definitely has appeal for a writer (and a resident in my case. I’m lucky to live in my little paradise.) Even less than desirable cities and neighborhoods can make intriguing stories. “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton comes to mind and “A Child called It” by Dave Pelzer We just wouldn’t necessarily want to GO to those places. They’re tangible locations you could put a pin in on a map though.
Then again you can also change reality and still base it on earthly locations. A melding of the two. There’s a whole genre that has explored this phenomenon and it’s called “Fiction” with sub-genres such as Paranormal, Science Fiction, and Magical Realism. A certain percentage of the story is based on earth with cities and people who resemble reality but might have portals to other worlds or have mythical creatures walking among the humans.
I think that would be a really awesome reality to live in. This kind of setting is where I base a lot of my stories in. There’s so much freedom! To be able to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge and then rebuild it with super advanced alien technology or step through a mirror and end up in another realm is appealing to imagine, not to mention write. You can choose how much science and how much fantasy are included in your story although you run the risk of getting those ultra fussy critics that demand facts to support your werewolf metamorphosis theory. (My husband is one of these *ROLLS EYES*)
And then there is, in my opinion, the hardest kind of setting to write. Let’s sing about it Jasmine!
~”A whollee neewww worrlllddddd! A dazzling place I never knew!”~
Sorry. There’s your ear worm for the week. But it’s true. Writing an entirely new world is a daunting task. I’ve read quite a few Epic fantasy sagas that are so rich in politics and language and lore I wonder how they ever found the time to FINISH it. “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien, “Symphony of Ages” by Elizabeth Haydon and “The Belgariad/Mallorean” series by David Eddings. So much work and thought and love went into each one of these stories. But even these are still roughly based on reality.
Creme de la Creme? Science Fiction writing. How about we take all this up to the stars? I don’t read much Science Fiction because it’s not my cup of tea but I greatly admire authors who write this genre. This is completely new territory that they literally build from scratch. So little is known about space and what IS known barely makes sense to the professionals who study it much less curious writers. However, this, in its own way, gives complete freedom to the author to write whatever they want; even more so than fantasy writers.
Advanced technology. Brand new races of people. New threats and planets and galaxies born from their imagination. New problems and conflicts and malfunctions. New issues with politics and marriage and bearing children. All off the surface of the earth into the last frontier. How amazing is that?!
I certainly don’t have the fortitude or the will to create something out of nothing. Yet. Baby steps. But deciding where you’re going to base your story changes the whole tone of it. The setting really IS its own character. Probably the most important side character ever. World building gives the reader a frame of reference to where everything is happening to the main characters and paints the canvas of your mind with color and feeling. Don’t treat it like the background that it is. Make sure you can engage all five senses when you’re writing and have your characters interact with their surroundings frequently.
Keep it real. Or fantastical ;D Your choice!
Enjoy and keep plodding.