Saturday, 6 July 2013

Location, Location, Location - The Creative Process



Location, Location, Location.

You've got your plot. You have your characters. You know what you want to happen and you're sitting by the keyboard and ready to write your opening sentence and paragraph. Except there's one little detail you've forgotten. Where on earth is this story set? There's also the question of when, but that's for another piece that I already have planned.

You know how they always say "Location, location, location"? The same is true for your story. Some writers will stick to their home town or a place that they are extremely familiar with. Others will set it in a made up place, between town x and city y. They draw maps and arrange everything so that they can talk about locations that exist in their world and what streets they're on and all of that. Others will scope out a place, visit it and take a huge chunk of photos so that they can refer back to them at a later stage. I'm sure there are other ways that I am not thinking of, but you get the picture.

As an avid reader, I've read many versions of how to solve the problem of location. As a writer, I use a few different techniques. I have written a book where it's set in my home town - it was linked to the history of the place and so had to be set there. I have also made up towns in my head, never really saying where they are in the grand scheme of things. Other times I have stuck a pin in a map and done research, like looking at Google Maps, to get a general idea of the area. I find that unless I have named a town, I see no need in laying out which road leads to where and what they're called.

Usually, I will use the same town that I have for books like BLACKOUT, the DYING THOUGHTS series and even LYNNE & HOPE. Although I do mention roads and motorways and other places in LYNNE & HOPE, the home town is the same in all three. It's completely fictional and although I have an idea of what it looks like and the way it's set in my head, I don't feel the need to include all of that in the books unless it's relevant, which is rarely is.

It really is a choice of what works for you. Do you feel like your home town is a place where you can set this story? Are you writing for adults, children or teens? The audience will determine how much you need to tell them about the place. Are they travelling by car? Bus? Foot? Donkey? Again, that will determine what you need to include. As always it is a balancing act between giving the reader enough information that they build a picture in their head and not giving too much so that it becomes annoying and unneeded.

I know that when I read, and come across books that detail the route they took in the car, including names and markers, I don't always feel that it is needed. I'm not criticising because everyone likes different things and that's the joys of being a writer, creating something different each time. I guess what I am trying to say is that while location is important, and needing to know your surroundings somewhat is also important, I don't think it's something that you need to describe down to the colour of the road signs. If it's needed for the plot, that's fine, but there is a fine line that you need to learn about so that you know when you can and can not cross it.

As always, your mileage may vary.Have fun choosing your location!

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