Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Location, Location, Location
Last month I went on a dual-purpose trip to the mountains, aiming to catch some fish and do a bit of location scouting for my Quill Gordon mystery novels, which are set in small mountain towns. The trip was a success on both counts.
I’ll spare you the fish stories, but will pass along an example of the location scouting. In my next mystery novel, the local high school plays a significant role, and I was pleased to discover on my trip a high school that can be used as the basis for describing my fictional one.
Thing is, the high school I discovered was hundreds of miles away from the locale that will be the basis for the setting of the book. In fact, the high school wasn’t even in the mountains; we drove past it on the way up, and I immediately said, “That’s it!” even though nothing like it exists in the alleged area where the alleged story will be taking place.
Well, It Is Fiction
People often ask if the settings of my books are real places with the names changed, and the best answer I can give goes something like this:
I often start out with a real place, using it as a skeleton to be fictionally fleshed out. I’ll take away things from the real place, add stuff that isn’t there, and make up some stuff that could be from anywhere or nowhere at all.
For example, my most recent novel, Not Death,But Love, is set in a location that bears enough of a resemblance to a real place that one or two people have guessed the connection. But unlike the real place, mine boasts such fictional amenities as a courthouse, a posh lakefront restaurant, the home of a prominent state senator, and an unusual house, depicted on the cover, which plays a critical role in the playing out of the story.
Actually, all those things I added were done for the sake of the story, which was why I borrowed and moved them or made them up out of whole cloth.
Truth be told, I take a similar approach to characters in my books. The inspiration for a character often begins with someone I either know personally or whose public persona I’ve observed.
In either case, I take what I’ve seen and build on it. With characters, much more so than with locations, I give free rein to my imagination. I try to imagine what a certain type of person would be like if some of his or her qualities were carried to a more elevated (or lowered) level. Then I try to imagine what that person would say or do in certain situations that he or she will encounter within the book.
It’s a lot of fun. Really. You should try it some time.