March 22, 2010

Writing where you know

We all know the old adage write what you know, but what about write where you know?

Most of my WIP takes place in Ireland (a place I've never been), but when I was setting up Maggie's ordinary world, I struggled in picking a place. The story called for her to live in the suburbs, but where?

The boroughs of NYC, maybe? SoCal? Miami?

I felt like it needed to be somewhere people already knew or readers wouldn't like it, wouldn't relate.

But plenty of writers write where they know, picking settings that aren't uber-familiar:
  • Nicholas Sparks, North Carolina
  • Jennifer Weiner, Philadelphia
  • Tom Clancy, Maryland
A myriad of bestselling authors set their novels in places far less glamorous than New York, California, and Florida. Why shouldn't I?

I've lived in the South my whole life - why shouldn't Maggie's tale start there?

After all, I had enough on my plate researching a country I'd never been to - why make things harder on myself? I wrote Maggie's hometown as a fictional suburb on the outskirts of a city very familiar to me.

The nature of my story required Maggie's adventure to take place in Ireland, but the next story I'm planning is set in a regular ol' American town. Just like in life, sometimes the unexpected can offer an even richer experience.

Bucharest instead of London. The Green Mountains instead of the Rockies. Centerville instead of San Diego.

What kind of settings do you gravitate towards? Can you think of other writers who write where they know?


Heidi said...

Jodi Picoult always sets her novels in New Hampshire because she's from there

One of my favourites, John Marsden, set his series in the bushland around the farm he owns and you can tell -- because he seems to know the position of every rock and tree and walking path.

Icy Roses said...

Personally, I think any setting can be written to be exciting. You're right. The hard part is trying to write a place where you've never been before. I love stories set in NYC (as common as they are), but I've never been there.

Charmaine Clancy said...

When writing about real places I have found writing where I know to be quicker, I don't stop and struggle over every landmark - however, I found a fantastic world much easier to write, no one can contradict you!

Elliot Grace said...

...detail is an easier task when writing "where" you know. Of course Google Earth is at one's fingertips when venturing into the unknown. (good topic:)

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