Saturday, 24 November 2012

Being an Author: Relocating the Mind.

Yeah, it's back to write what you know. Maybe I should just do a month of these.

Anyway.

I live in the UK. My writing has spanned locations in the UK, US, across Europe, fictional places, real places, space stations, alien worlds, even worlds fictional inside of the story. So it's a challenge, right?

Narnia: not quite the same as London Victoria Station.
The last short that I wrote was set in London, England, in an area that I know. It was a different write for me than say the novel I'm just finishing up that is set in a fictional American town. Was it better knowing the location of my fiction, or not?

Writing about a real place: that you know.

Watch out for colloquialisms. Particularly if it's somewhere the readership is less likely to know. You know what 'a quart in a pint pot' means, right? Shillings? Of course not. Think about the readers, and what they will understand.

Don't forget that the readers won't know where you're talking about. It's really easy to forget that no one else can see what's in your mind. I can picture the school down the road. I have to watch out for all the hearses. What? Oh, yeah, that's right, I forgot you didn't know that there was a graveyard next door. Remember to explain what might seem obvious to you.

Don't concentrate on what you like. It's a shout out to 'killing your darlings' but when you are writing about a place that you actually know, it's very easy to wander off narrative to something that you want to talk about. Stick to the plot.

Writing about a real place: that you don't know.

Research. Research, research, research. You know one of the best new things for the writer who wants to write about somewhere real? Google Street View. Dang that things awesome. Whilst not being able to take in the atmosphere of the location, it allows you to be able to feel like you've walked down the sidewalk (if there is a sidewalk - but you can check). Little details that can go into your writing will help create a diorama for the characters to play in, and help to draw in the audience.

Google: is there nothing you cannot do?
But...

Try to leave out easily incorrect details. You don't know, if you've never been there, watch out for the big drops. It's all back to research, but saying that Tinpot Town, Yorkshire smelled of the roses that lined the street... well, I've been there and it don't smell like no roses I ever smelled. Sewage plant down the road...

And again with the colloquial. Don't forget that if you're in the UK you walk on the path, or pavement, not the sidewalk - we have shops called Greggs, no Walmart, and vice versa.

Writing about a fictional place: that... you... haven't...?

The easiest and the hardest all at once. Yes, no one can argue with me over the color of the sand on BeetleBrox IV, harsh desert moon of Rolo. You know, 'cause I just made it up. But then...

You have to paint a picture with broad strokes. Your 'world' becomes like trying to describe a character. Make the reader see what you see, without telling them all of it.

"The sandstorm raged on the surface of BeetleBrox IV, as over the horizon, barely visible through the light green particles of sand that danced in the air, the planet Rolo dropped in the night sky."

Oh, and get someone to read it and tell you if there's enough detail or not. 

It's the only way to be sure...

'Til next time...


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