Monday, October 10, 2011
"Setting" the Mood
When I first dreamed up the story for my book, LIFE ON THE EDGE, it was a house that determined the setting. I imagined my protagonist living in the Cape Cod townhouse in which I'd stayed a few summers earlier. The charm of the townhome had stayed with me, from the cozy bottom floor kitchen to the rooftop deck, complete with a view of the bay and a never-ending sea breeze. I wanted my main character, Emily, to live there.
From that Hyannis house grew the rest of the backdrop to the story. Emily is a figure skater, so she needed a place to train. Check - a few towns away there's an ice rink, where Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie once skated.
Because Boston is one of my favorite cities and I'm very familiar with it, I decided to make it Emily's hometown. It was during my third trip to Boston that I discovered neighboring Brookline and the area in which I imagined Emily growing up.
I could picture her as a child, riding her bike along the quiet, tree-lined street, and walking with her dad to the Coolidge Corner T stop to catch the Green Line train to Fenway Park. With these images in my mind, I started to fill out Emily's backstory, which helped me know my main character better.
Since Emily is an Olympic-eligible skater, LIFE ON THE EDGE takes her to a number of competitions in a variety of locations - Paris, Tokyo, and Vancouver, to name a few. I haven't visited all the places I wrote about in the book, so I did research in order to accurately describe them. The internet is a writer's best friend!
Online information can only give so much insight, though. Experiencing your story setting first hand provides invaluable sensory data - the sights, the smells, the sounds that can't be appreciated through a computer screen. You can feel what your characters feel as they live your story.
Have you ever "walked in your characters' shoes" and visited the places you write about? Scheduled a vacation to a location you want to write about in the future?