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Writer’s Inspiration – Special Places Part Two
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For creative writing, one of the things writers need to identify is a compelling setting. “Compelling” may not mean something out-of-the-ordinary: indeed, many fiction writers have made some compelling storylines out of settings inspired by very ordinary settings in their own world.

Small town settings, for example, have served as the backdrop setting for fiction vehicles as diverse as the novel and television series regarded as the first ever soap opera, Peyton Place, to a family-values, “high concept” television series such as The Waltons.

Here, I suggest another method of going about defining the special places in your life.

That is to look at other things that characterize your life, and define special places in association with some sort of theme or meaningful concept.

What defines the kind of environment you grew up in, are growing up in, or are living in now as an adult?

Or, have visited on a trip and would like to live in?

• Is your normal habitat associated with a city that has an ocean shoreline?

• Is the place where you live a city, a rural location, or a small town? What is distinctive about that place?

• Do you live near a national park or a state-managed forest or wilderness? How would you characterize that location?

• Do you live near [or wish you lived near] a desert like Death Valley or the deserts in Arizona?

• Would you prefer [and have visited] to live in a mountainous setting?

• What about a lakeside setting? Do you have any family or personal experiences that deal in lakeside settings?

• How about actually on the water? In a tour boat, a family outboard motor boat, a rowboat, a canoe, or a kyack. While for the most part the setting of a small boat probably won’t serve the needs of an entire novel, some dramatic scenes could play out there.

In actuality, it’s not unheard of for a skilled fiction writer to have much of a novel play out in a very limited setting such as aboard a seagoing vessel. Well-known romance author Marsha Canham, for example, set one of her historical romances, Across a Moonlit Sea, almost entirely on board sailing vessels. Only the introductory and concluding scenes of this book occur on land. Most of Ms. Canham’s work involves sailing vessels in some form, but in this particular book more than ninety percent of the novel is set aboard two or three sailing vessels.

Another romance author, Jana DeLeon sets her novels in the Louisiana Bayou amidst a very small-town kind of backdrop: although in some of them characters venture to larger nearby cities during some of the action.

The late mystery writer Dick Francis made a career spanning something like five decades out of setting novels at facilities in some way dealing with horses: mostly racetracks but also places like a horse transport company.

When you are casting about for good settings for your creative writing, think about the themes you have experienced associated with places.

For example:

• Was your hometown historically significant in some way? Possibly several ways, each of which could provide inspiration for a different setting?

• Did your hometown, perhaps, have an unusual number of movie theatres at one time?

• What was the industry that sustained your town? [In my town it was at one time textiles and shoes, and later General Electric.]

• Does your hometown, or another town you frequented, have a history as a mill town?

• Does your hometown, or another town you frequented, have a literary history [such as Lexington or Concord, Massachusetts]

• Does such a stomping ground of yours have a history involved with suffrage, or with the underground railroad: [Hint: if so, it is often both. These two movements became somewhat linked over time.]

• Thinking more broadly, such as regionally or ethnically: what kinds of food were popularly served for family get-togethers or community pot luck suppers. Where was the location these were served?

Considering questions like these will prove valuable to you as a writer in identifying settings that can serve as the inspiration for your creative writing efforts.

Street Talk

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