Friday, May 27, 2016

Maine Chance

My grandson graduated from Colby College last Sunday. It has an excellent reputation for academics and was easily the most peaceful campus I've visited.

All the visiting relations stayed in Belfast the night before. My daughter, Michele, and son-in-law, Harry and his mother, June Crockett were treated to a great tour of the town by Murray and Margot Carpenter.

Belfast was fascinating and the town was one little hilly street after another. That surprised me and in a very short time all the muscles in my legs rebelled. By the bay the terrain was relatively flat and I was intrigued with the commercial aspects of shipping and ship-building. Besides, standing still and asking questions is a sly way to distract attention from a pained expression. These were serious hills. In town, yet!

I didn't know a thing about Maine. I've never been a huge supporter of the "write what you know" idea, but when it comes to setting, I think it's essential. No amount of Googling would have substituted for the couple of days in Belfast.

Streets in Kansas are wide and broad and in Maine they were narrow and winding. One could not zip right along.

From Maine we went to Manteo, NC where my granddaughter will be married Sunday. The family has gone to NC a number of times and I'm a little more familiar with that state.

But still! The chances of getting nearly everything wrong are sky high when writing about an unfamiliar setting. You'll have the flamingos going "eek" instead of "awk" and the wrong kind of flowers blooming at the wrong time and the wrong kind of grocery store chains.

However, there is a way of working around some of this if the protagonist is not writing from the viewpoint of a native. Write as an outsider. I did this with a couple of short stories that had a trucking background.

The outsider viewpoint is very useful for inserting background information. For instance, in my mystery series, Lottie Albright has moved to Western Kansas from Eastern Kansas and she often compares the two halves of the state

There is nothing wrong with using any setting you choose if you are willing to do the work. Visits, historical societies, and leg work can take you a long ways. As for me, I still enjoy writing about my native state.

2 comments:

Mary Jane Hopper said...

I enjoyed your post today and look forward to many more. I, too, am from Kansas in the South Central area, but I live in Arizona now.

Donis Casey said...

Congratulations on the graduation and the wedding, Charlotte.