Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Location, location, location!

by Rick Blechta

My reference photo of Loch Striven
My post this week spins off what Aline was speaking about yesterday. One thing I’ve learned over the course of 10 books is that location can bring a story to life as much as great characters.

I agree with Aline that fiction writers should never apologize for their imaginations. So what if we add a castle to the landscape? If it helps our story, then go for it. The only disappointed people will be those who travel to the locale and don’t find the castle there. If they have their own good imaginations, they’ll “see” the castle where the author placed it and understand why it was placed there.

I have my own Scottish story to relate. While researching in Argyll for my novel When Hell Freezes Over, I needed a lonely house in a picturesque location. We were staying with a friend and not having had much luck on two research forays from his home just north of Dunoon, I asked him for some help.

“What you’re describing we would call a bothy, basically a farmhouse. There’s a road that goes around the bottom of Loch Striven. You should try that.”

Off my wife and I went. The views from the road were really lovely, but there was no building placed anywhere which would work in my story. None that we saw gave me what I was looking for: lonely but with a great view. Reaching the end of the road, we turned back. It wasn’t until we returned again to the bottom of Loch Striven where the road is about a quarter to half a mile from the shoreline and up fairly high that I realized the location was perfect for my needs — except there wasn’t even a shed in sight. And then I though, Well, there could be

Back at our friend’s house after taking some reference photos, I sketched out a description of my old bothy, the outbuilding I needed, and a short but precise description of the view, and voila! I had just what I needed.

And I did not feel a twinge of guilt.

For the record, I used our friend’s house (particularly his living room) for the climactic scene of my novel.*

We fiction writers lie for a living. Really. Everything we do is made up. Sometimes it might be based on fact, but at their hearts, our works are always made up, aren’t they? If that means adding buildings to a landscape, so what?

I’m with Aline on this one.

Next week: *the dangers of using recognizable landmarks in fiction writing.


Sybil Johnson said...

I'm with you and Aline in this one. I have no problem inventing an entire town and plopping it where I feel it should be. So would have no problem inventing a structure and plopping it down in a real area.

Rick Blechta said...

Aline is correct, though, when she states that the locals will complain and tell you how bad your research is. I just respond, "I lie for a living. This is just one of many." In French my wife would say, "Tant pis," but she tends to be more blunt. ;)