From the standpoint of a human being, if I or someone else says, “I’m thinking of a geographical,” it means a move or job change is an easy road from big problems. However, from a writer’s point of view, thinking of a geographical means contemplating where I want my story to be. How do you find the right setting for your story? Instead of just thinking of a geographical, take a geographical and do some research!
I love traveling, and once took a road trip halfway across the United States to Arkansas, where my dad and step mother live. While wandering through all of the different terrain, I wondered what makes each city, town or state different than others. What distinguishing characteristics does an area have? What might the place be famous for? Most importantly, how does this region fit into my story?
Suppose I want to write a story set in the church to the right located in Mossville, Arkansas. I’ve been there and taken this picture. Is visiting and taking this picture enough? It could be, if all I want is a church that looks a certain way to be in my story. But, if I want to bring some realism to my story, I might want to do some geographical research on the church, and the area. Since I’ve already been to Mossville and may not return, I might want to search online for anything on Mossville history I can find. I can write (or email!) their Chamber of Commerce or historical society.
Last summer, my boyfriend, Don, and I traveled to Rockport, Massachusetts. We visited his loved ones for about a week, went sailing, to the beach, shopping, and took long walks through the small, lovely English village with three and four story houses that, from this Californians point of view, look like mansions. Even though I experienced snapshots of life in the Eastern U.S., I learned enough to write a realistic short story or two. For other details, I can do online research or interview Don’s relatives who live there!
As a writer, the important thing about geographical research is that facts are essential in creating realistic fiction, as well as maintaining my credibility.
© 2006 Susan Littlefield