Friday, March 26, 2010

Anywhere, USA

I'd have to say I am very much like Ashley with this topic. I don't go into too much detail with the location of my stories. Part of that is due to the fact that I tend to write short pieces which don't require much in the way of place setting, and partially due to simply not knowing any place well enough to pull it all off.

I have lived in the same small town now for 4 years and I still don't know my way around. I can get to the places I go to frequently - the college campus, my daughter's school, the grocery, the bookstore, the library, and so on. But whenever someone asks how to get to some place I don't go often, I draw a blank. I don't know what is more then three streets over from me on the west, or what's north of the local Wal-Mart, nor south of the grocery store. I simply am not much for exploring my surroundings. (Plus, I tend to get turned around and lost very easily. I have direction issues.)

It also helps that when we go anywhere, my husband tends to drive. Getting a bit car sick, I tend to read a lot when I am in the car, and not look around at the scenery.

So I really don't feel comfortable enough, even writing about Kansas City, to write in any real detail, even though I spent years there, and love the city.

So I tend to go for a vague description of location and let the readers fill it in, with only a few exceptions. My alternate reality series is set in Kansas City, but since it is mostly in ruins and being rebuilt, I don't have to sweat the details.


  1. If you create something real enough that your readers can picture it, you're a far better writer than someone who thinks throwing in a bunch of street names (to use Ash's example) will set the scene.

  2. Hi, Michelle,

    I love the notion of taking a place that you know well, and then imagining an alternative reality in which the place is in ruins. I remember reading an Ursula LeGuin novel -- can't recall the name -- set around San Francisco Bay in a future where the whole area had reverted to wilderness and tribal society. Whenever there was a reference to some familiar buried landmark I felt an odd frisson of excitement.

    I'm no good at directions either. Fortunately I married a guy who seems to have an embedded GPS receiver! However, I do absorb the feelings of places. Sometimes if I want to write about a particular location, I have to do research on the real street layout and so on, in order to get the details right.


  3. Michelle,

    It sounds like we were separated at birth! I've lived in Blackpool now for more than 40 years and I still don't know the town very well. I'll use the satnav for any journey that takes me away from my usual route of a trip to college or a visit to the local shops.



  4. Kathleen -- *nodding* Certainly true. : )

    Lisabet -- Isn't it great to have guys that can navigate for us? LOL I also suck on driving in interstates, especially in cities. *shudders*

    Ash -- Indeed brother mine, we might have been. Either that, or I could have been adopted. *wink, wink* : )


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