Friday, February 1, 2008

Freestyle Friday

Location, Location, Location

Though I traveled to Denver, Colorado, to see my kids and my new grandson, I also spent some time reacquainting myself with the place. Why? Because that's where most of KNIGHT'S CURSE is set.

I haven't been away from the city all that long, just about three and a half years. I return anually for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, though I hardly venture outside the hotel within the four days I'm there. So this recent trip was really my first time in a while to actually be out and about the Mile High city. I drove all over.

Not much has changed. The weather is as unpredictable as ever, and it happened to be unseasonably warm the first two days of my visit. I mention the weather in the book since environment is always important in a story.

The one thing I will have to go back and change is the traffic. Man, has it gotten bad. Or maybe it always was bad. Where I live in Bend, traffic is rarely an issue unless it's right after a concert or a parade, and even that's tolerable. The speed limit on most Denver highways is 65 to 75 miles per hour. Egad! I felt like I was on a speedway, and the way cars zoomed past each other and tailgated, you'd have thought a real race was going on. Only it was just a regular day among the urban sprawlers of Denver. However, it was striking enough that I'll need to mention something about it in my book.

The smog wasn't bad because of the cold. It can get pretty nasty in warm weather. Because the story is set in the fall, when it's cold enough to snow, Chalice won't have to worry about her super senses getting clogged by noxious air. That's good. But it is dry. Very dry. My lips started to peel after the first day, and the inside of my nose got so dry it bled a little. So those are details I should add.

I don't intend to get caught up in the minutia of seemingly minor details, but I believe there's a place for authenticity in a good story. For readers to fully immerse themselves in a tale, a peppering of fine details is essential. I've read some books that could have taken place in almost any city or small town or rural farming community except for the mention of a landmark or two. But that's telling, not showing. And it's just not the same.

The beginning of my book is set in the Middle East. Do I need to go there to capture the nuance of place in order to properly set the scene? If it lasted more than a chapter I probably would. But I garnered just enough info from books and the Internet to set a fairly realistic scene at my fictitious monastery in my fictitious village in Lebanon.

If you're a writer, how much research do you do for your setting? Do you visit the place? Or is it a location you're familiar with because you used to live there? Do you find the Internet useful for researching your setting? Or do you do interviews with people who can provide a first-hand account?


Virginia Lee said...

I'm a regionalist. That means my academic field is the American South. And yeah, they actually do have degrees in it. ;) Much of my work is set in the South because that's what I know. If I have occasion to write about areas not in the US South? Well, I'm a research fiend. I love it. And, I don't want to screw anything up. It peeves me as a reader to read inaccurate information about a locale I've lived in or been to enough to know better. I feel like the writer isn't doing her job then.

Admittedly, however, I do need to do more with climate in my work. I tend to forget that since I work mostly with short fiction.

Karen Duvall said...

I know just what you mean, Virginia, about inaccuracies. Some might argue that it's fiction so it doesn't matter. But I think that if you're going to go that route, then just make it all up to begin with. Fictional towns are cool!

Internet tools are fabulous for scoping out settings. I really like the virtual tours where you get a panoramic view and direct the camera lens yourself. That's what I used when researching my Middle East setting that is such a minor part of the book it hardly seems worth it. But it was. It gave me a solid image to work with when writing my beginning scenes.