Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Under The Boardwalk...

Geography can be a problem when you're a writer.

Of course, geography can be a problem for non-writers as well. If you don't think so, ask the next person you see where Tajikistan is. Not me though. I haven't a clue.

My geographical problems come in writing about pretend people in real places. Specifically, Wilmington, North Carolina. Here in the Wilmington area we are fortunate enough to have beaches. Not just one but four that I know of. There's Topsail Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. Not wanting to limit myself to any one of those, when I wrote Tree Huggers, which takes place in Wilmington, I created a fictional beach called Winslow Beach. I assumed anyone who knew our city would realize it didn't exist in real life.

At my appearance with the most wonderful Carolina Beach Mystery Book Club, I was called to task about giving Winslow Beach a boardwalk. It was a throw-away line in the book. A reporter says "Oh, that TV series will be filming a scene on the boardwalk at Winslow Beach before they relocate to Canada." Had nothing to do with advancing the plot other than showing what goes on at a newspaper staff meeting.

One member of the book club said she assumed I was writing about Wrightsville Beach, and there isn't a boardwalk there. And she's right. Only Carolina Beach has a boardwalk. I said, yes, but it's my fictional beach and I can give it a boardwalk if I want to.

When you write about real places, you do need to be careful. People who live there will catch your mistakes. And it doesn't hurt to brush up on your geography. I know. In one draft of Caviar Dreams, which takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio, I changed the course of the Ohio River. I had it running east instead of west. A pretty neat parlour trick, but that would definitely get me into trouble with the book clubs.

And you can bet that I won't be writing any books set in Tajikistan,

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