Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Writing in a 'real' place - by Joyce Lavene

Books are either set in a real place; Chicago, the Congo, Venezuela, or a place in the writer's imagination: Oz, Mars, an underwater city. Maybe you write stories with characters based in your old hometown or your characters travel to exotic locations you may have never been.

Whatever your setting preference, it can be as important to the story as characters and plot. Setting, in many cases, becomes another character you have to work with in your story. Winter storms set back an investigation, high seas cause chaos or a murder victim is found drowned on a dry, hot day in the desert.

There are also the little details, especially in books where the setting is real. How long does it take to get from the airport to a particular hotel in Boston? What are the streets like in Minneapolis, Minnesota? Can you take a train through Charlotte, North Carolina? These details make readers crazy when they know the right answers and the author telling the story doesn't.

When Jim and I wrote the Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries, we made every detail of the area where Peggy lived and worked as accurate as we could. People actually emailed us that they couldn't find her shop in Brevard Court in Charlotte. Some of them were a little put out because they wanted to stop by and say hello.

Then we started writing the Ren Faire Mysteries. This wasn't a 'real' place at all but rather the best of many places put together in the old Air Force base in Myrtle Beach, SC. We figured that area could handle a full-time Renaissance Faire. Readers seem to get that it isn't a real place, although many have told us they would like to live there if it ever is.

Now we're writing the Missing Pieces Mysteries set in a real place again; Duck, NC. We loved the name and the area when we were down there and thought it would be a great place for mysteries, filled with pirate lore, legend and ghosts. But Duck isn't very big and our editor wasn't sure how people at tiny, one of a kind shops would feel about murder investigations tromping through there.

So we tried to stay as true to the real Duck as we could without actually using real names. The places exist but their names, as it goes, have been changed to protect the innocent. Will people who live in (or visit) Duck know them? I won't know until May when the first book comes out.

But if any Duck, NC shop, hotel or restaurant would LIKE for us to kill someone there, please let us know. We'd be happy to do so, if only for the sake of setting realism.

A Timely Vision
Book 1 in the Missing Pieces Mysteries
May 4, 2010


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think I know a few people for you to murder in Duck, Joyce. Just to make the story more realistic, of course... :)

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Ruby Johnson said...

What an interesting name for a town. I grew up in SC and many books are set in and around Charleston. Knowing just about every place located in the low-country, I sometimes find it distracting when someone combines two names of cities in the low country, but uses everything about charleston in the story. Very confusing.