Friday, April 19, 2019

Places Remembered

I've been thinking about setting -- particularly in the wake of the fire at Notre Dame. I was in Paris for the second time a few years ago. That time around I was traveling with my aunt and we were visiting her son and his family. We traveled from the house they had bought in Normandy to Paris. At the time I was looking ahead, scouting out the setting for a future book in my Lizzie Stuart series. I was already planning to send Lizzie and John Quinn to France on their honeymoon.

Lizzie, my history nerd, would walk through Paris with guidebook in hand. How could she not have gone to Notre Dame? Undoubtedly a scene would have happened there. Maybe she would have seen someone or heard something. Maybe had a glimpse of another character I already know will appear in that book.

That book isn't the next in the series, but the one after. I've been debating France, but it is the destination I've always had in mind if Lizzie and Quinn make it to the altar. I've also recently considered Ireland because of Quinn's family ties. But if they should go to Paris, I need to make a choice. The series is in the recent past. The honeymoon would happen during the first week of January 2005. So what about Notre Dame?  How does one handle a setting that has changed in an event that was deeply emotional for many people?

This gets to the larger question of recovering the past. As my fellow Type-Mers have discussed, setting is important. I, too, spend time in the field, exploring the places where my books and short stories are set. It is disconcerting to discover how much real-life settings change. This is less of an issue writing in the recent past or near future. Enough is there to have a sense of how it once looked or will look in an imagined future. But when the setting has only a marker and the surrounding area has changed, one is left only with photos.

I need to go to the site of the 1939 New York World's Fair. Knowing how little remains from the fair, I haven't rushed to make the pilgrimage. But I will eventually. Standing there, with map and photo book, I hope I will be able to get the "lay of the land".

And if  Lizzie goes to Notre Dame in 2005, I'll need to figure out how to treat the tragedy of the fire with respect while being true to what she would have seen and commented on.


Anonymous said...

Going out on a limb now, because I have felt the embarrassment of suggesting to a well-known author how she might/could/should write the next book, receiving in response a polite blank stare.

I would have Lizzie gaze on aspects of the cathedral known to be immune to change at the time of the book (the oldest artifacts, the view from across the river, a glimpse of the gargoyles, the general atmosphere outside and inside, the crowds, individuals who are clearly art history buffs or pious and devout or idle spectators.....and then perhaps reflect on how she will always carry these memories into the rest of her life regardless of what time and change may bring. Maybe a little anticipatory nostalgia here. (At age 8 I said to myself, jumping over a little hill in my side yard, "I'll always remember this." And I always have, even though my little leap was completely ordinary. Surely Lizzie can do this splendidly with such an important event.)

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Thank you, Anonymous, that's a wonderful suggestion! That approach will allow me to use the setting, but acknowledge the future with the "always remember." And this is certainly in keeping with how Lizzie sees the world.

Good advice always appreciated