Anywhere, But Somewhere
Location. Location. Location.
A sense of place is as important in fiction as it is in real estate. Why? Because story events never unfold in a void. They always happen in a place. A darkened room. A crowded beach. A craggy mountain top in Mordor. It can be anywhere, as long as it’s somewhere.
When I’m writing a new scene, I prefer to use a location I’ve been to personally whenever possible. It helps ground the characters in a physical space, and often gives me ideas for how they can interact with their environment.
Sometimes, this includes taking characters out to actual landmarks in my home town of Brisbane, where my recent novels are all set. In The Experiment, Patrick and Logan go to dinner at a restaurant in South Bank and then walk along the riverfront. In The Harder We Fall, Tristan and Sam drive up to the Mount Coot-tha lookout to see the view of the city and have dinner at the cafe up there.
Other times, I use places like templates and drop characters into them. In my new book, Toni lives in a tiny apartment in Kangaroo Point. It looks suspiciously like my niece’s old apartment in the same suburb. Toni and Ned also go an engagement party – in the same room where I attended an engagement party late last year.
But here’s the kicker. In Becoming Us, my trio of love interests (Gabi, Law, and Connor) attend the wedding of Gabi’s brother, Frank. The entire setting for all those chapters was lifted straight from my niece’s wedding a few years ago. The hotel lobby, the rooms, the chapel, the footpath through the grounds. Everything! If my niece hadn’t gotten married, I have no idea where Gabi and her boys would have ended up!
The setting for any particular scene has a lot to offer in terms of atmosphere and potential action. So, it’s important to choose each location with care. You know, when you’re not simply pilfering floor plans from other people’s homes and adjusting them to fit. As techniques go, there’s room in my writer’s toolbox for both.