Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Virtuality

Blechta here -- and there.

I've spent pretty well most of my time the past week or so in Paris. Ah, Paris, the city of light, the city of love. It is so beautiful and interesting. Everywhere you turn, there's something worth noting.

I imagine I'm really going to like it there.

Confused? You needn't be. I'm not actually getting on a plane to go there until Friday evening. I've been in Paris via my imagination, and it's gotten to the point where my brain is so stuffed with Parisian factoids that I had a dream about it last night. I was crossing the Seine on the Pont de Sully, a structure I've only seen in photos and read about. It's going to be the first place I go out and explore, not because it might make it into my book, but because I want to see how close my dream got to the reality of it.

I'm not saying I have the most vivid imagination in the world. I don't, but what I have are twenty-two books, anecdotes from the many people I've spoken with about France's capitol, and the Internet, mostly the Internet.

This is such a powerful tool for writers, I don't know why they don't devote a unit to it in creative writing classes. You can look up nearly anything you want to know. You can use Google maps to zero in on something to the point where you can see individual people (makes me think of personal missile strikes being ordered by "them"). In the case of popular locations, you can see them in real time.

I'm NOT going to ever try this, but it would be an intriguing exercise to write a whole book and use a location that has a great deal written about it -- like Paris -- but never visit it. Then passing the resulting work to people who live there and find out how close I managed to get. Hmmm... Having read a few suspect novels, I believe this may already have been tried. Badly.

So, starting Saturday morning, I'm going to grab my video camera, still camera, half-filled notebook and heavily annotated map, and head out onto the streets of Paris with my darling wife and translator. (Thank the Lord she's totally bilingual, because I sure ain't!)

Will we be visiting the Louvre? Notre Dame? The Eiffel Tower?

Nope.

We'll be visiting the places I've already been to -- virtually. We're going to find out if my imagination is any good. If it has failed me, then we're on site to discover a place that does fit what I've written. Or a place that could work if I rewrite the offending section of the book.

You see, I can do those sorts of things because, as fiction writers, we do lie for a living, don't we?

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