Location (AKA also a character)

As a writer, I’ve struggled a lot with the question of location. There’s a lot of the world and this country that I’ve never seen (tragically, because I *love* traveling). In the past I’ve not been much of a researcher; initially because I was writing fast and hard for NaNo and rarely went back to the books for edits. But I did place characters in cities and states that served an important purpose for the characters and stories I was building.   

I do believe that location is incredibly important to the integrity of the story being told. For me, location is almost like a third character, silent but formative. It frames your story, it supports it in the background. It breathes atmosphere and often is a part of character growth and development. 

The first story I ever really researched for a location I’d never visited had scenes in London and Paris; I could not be *less* familiar with either location. But for both these locations in both were vital to the story. 

One of the loveliest things about participating in fan culture (which is where my writing really took off and picked up speed) is that it is a *gift* culture. Which means that when you need help, have questions, or a boost, there will generally be someone there to help you out. Having had a positive experience with help from other writers re: the story that took place in Europe, I decided to send out a call for help for locations in my current novel. I got so much amazing help, and for each person who offered advice, thank you, And also, sorry because big changes had to be made that kind of cut out sections that you all helped me with (eeep).

When I began this story, I’d never been to Chicago (a fact that seems to boggle everyone’s mind, as everyone here has been there at least once. It’s only 4 hours away and there’s train and bus routes). So why Chicago then? Why not pick a location I am intimately acquainted with? (For those wondering, that knowledge would be limited to Florida, Michigan, and Ohio). 

I needed one of my characters, Wren, live in a city that was supportive of the *thing* that makes him special (we’ll reveal that in the future when we’re closer to publication) (isn’t it awesome how I’ve somehow become a magical we?) (I love parentheticals. Just submit to the insanity). Detroit? Not a city that would work in any way for this need. Other Michigan cities that support larger populations? Not necessarily what I needed either because they’re in no way what I would consider cosmopolitan (sorry!). Plus, Michigan is just too conservative for my needs. I didn’t want a huge city, such as New York, or an expected city such as San Fransisco. Chicago seemed like it might be a good fit, and in a fit of insanity, I figured I could probably travel there for some on site research. Research is fantastic, but I really would have liked to soak in the atmosphere. 

Remind me to tell you about my disastrous attempt to visit the city this past June. 

Anyway, Chicago it was. It was a good fit for Wren, but also, a very important place for my other character, Cam. 

Enter another location that I know *nothing* about: Nebraska. I’ll give that revelation a little time to simmer as you ponder just why I chose that state as Cam’s home state.

I needed Chicago to be a revelation, and I needed Nebraska to be a foil, and I needed them to support a character in the process of discovery on multiple levels. I’ll admit that I only managed to glimpse Chicago at a distance while trapped for over an hour in the worst traffic jam of my existence; this obviously really changed my plans and the way that I placed my characters and their interactions in the city — as I wrote the book, the city became very much a background character (with totally made up places). At this point, it’s more the *idea* of each location that became important. But still, I stand by my assertion that location is a vital piece of my storytelling puzzle (here and in other books I’ve written. Or sort of written. Half written?) 

Of course, I am regret and anxiety filled, so now that the manuscript is in I worry that I haven’t done enough or filled things in enough. I guess time will tell. For my writer followers, how important is location in your stories, and how do you use location? For my readers, what are your thoughts? Do you find that location is important in shaping a story or does it depend? 

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Oh my it’s really hard to put this in 250 chars, but the gist of it is that I learned that a difficult decision can be easier when I myself am in a better place. Bad place = too worried about the risks. Feeling better = ready to face the challenge.

This is an excellent point! Decision making when risk is involved is this terrifying stew of factors and few promised outcomes. Factoring in being in a difficult place or position and things become so complex, it boggles. I’m mentally tracking down this path and thinking, well when do we factor in impulses vs calculated risks? Oh so many variables, I’ve made my own head hurt. 

I’m trying to think of chances/risks I’ve taken in various frames of mind, but currently all I can think about is “ow, sinuses”. 

It’s awfully presumptuous to say, hey what’s the worst choice you’ve made, but when you’re talking about this better place and facing challenges, do you guys have any stories? 

Risk vs. Reward

My goal with this author blog (well one) has been to try to update at least once a week, talk about craft, get chatty about process, and as we get closer and closer to the big day, let you know more about the book. So my apologies for spectacular fail last week.

The good news, while I left a few of you hanging, assuming you are that invested, is that the reason I was MIA was because I was burning the midnight candle completing the second draft of my manuscript, just in time for a little break before I dive into a third read before my due date (8/18, so close!). There are still a couple of scenes to be written, the most important of which take place in Nebraska, a state I almost nothing about. I do have someone helping me with that part, we’re just working on coordinating schedules to really nail down details before I tackle that piece. Plus, character development wise, it gives us a really important background context and insight into why one of our main characters functions as he does throughout the novel even as he’s going through many, many changes. 

Oooh lookie! I gave you guys a little hint: nameless character has ties to Nebraska. I’m sure this leaves you salivating for more (she says sarcastically, which is really not a great look on me, I don’t pull it off well). If you looked closely at the lovely picture I tweeted the other week, you can also find some character names spoiled there. I’ll leave you to ponder with bated breath which one of them is from where. Oh! In reading an old blog post, I realize I did drop a character name, so I’ll unveil my darling Cam. I won’t tell if where he’s from though. 

I’ve been thinking, as I closed out the end of this story draft and writing out the final scenes, about what themes I could really pinpoint in this story. I am *terrible* at summarizing and boiling down and such for my own work because I can be very tied to all the nuanced details and threads that I think are so important to the story. They all seem relevant m’kay?? 

I spoke in one of my first blog posts about avian30’s Dream It, Do It challenge, and a novel theme I’d been working on: taking chances. But when I’d think about the boys I have here and their process over the almost three years their story unfolds, I realized it is not just that they need to take chances, but also weight the potential costs and benefits of taking big risks. 

In our lives, we’re often presented with choices that don’t have easy answers, no guarantees that one path will truly pan out to be the best course of action. Perhaps both seem overwhelming, or frightening, or carry the impending weight of difficult changes that must be taken. Often the cost just cannot be calculated. Maybe as we decide to travel in one direction, we’ll have to let go of something: something we’ve wanted, held dear, a perception of who we were or thought we were going to be. These are moments when taking stock of putting ourselves out there will be worth that risk, if the potential payoff will actually, you know, pay off. And then, for many of us, there’s going to be a grieving process for the thing we knew, the thing we didn’t chose; even if we perceive that we ultimately made the right choice. That’s not even to speak of times we realize that we’ve made the wrong choice.

Now I can’t tell you if these boys make the right or wrong choices throughout the book — that’s a journey I’d love for you to embark on with them. 

I would love though, to talk with you guys about times in your life when you were faced with a choice that carried risk. Did it pan out? Did it not? How did you handle that process? 

If you’d like to chat, I’d love to respond to asks and messages on the topic; anyone want to come play?

Tibits!

So I wanted to share my social media sites yet again. As an incentive, I can promise you that all of them do not contain the same content! 

If you’re looking for something more conversational, head over to my facebook page. Talking is awesome there because I can do multiple responses. And not just about my book, but everything!

I am an avid reader! If you’re interested in what I am reading and what I think, or looking for suggestions, head over to my goodreads account. 

If you want to see me fail at social media (I kid!), as well as tiny spoiler tidbits or hints of what’s to come, my twitter is a great place to head. As of right now there’s a picture of my editing process. Maybe you’ll get a tiny bit of spoiler there 😀 (tiny)

And of course, here! Generally this blog will feature once a week blog posts from me, and I hope soon, guest blog posts as well!