I have learned over time if I want to write real I need to visit the location of my novels if I’m using a real location. Creating a fictitious location is easier, but you’ll find bonuses in writing about real places.
The first bonus is visiting a town that you have never been to or you have never spent time there. I’m a life long resident of Michigan, but this small town is mid-state and I’ve never had reason to visit there before. When I learned about it through a friend, it captured my interest since my publisher, Love Inspired, enjoys stories set in more rural areas. Owosso was perfect. First off it has its very own castle, build by James Curwood, the highest paid novelist in the 1920s. At least 30 of his novels inspired or used to make movies. The castle served as his writing studio, and he lived in a home in Owosso where he was born and raised.
Since my novels are romances with various issues that plague the characters, my books often focus on a
single parent. This town has amazing activities for children including three venues that have areas called Playscapes, with a spalsh pool, regular swings, and slides for all ages. The parks have a pavillian and gazebo as well.
The DeVries Nature conservatory has a nature playscape for kids and paths for walking through the woods and around the River Floorplain. Kids can dig, catch bugs with nets, climb trees and walk on logs. While there, we experienced a deer leaping across the path in front of us.
The town has a Steam Railroading Institute with an amazing collection of trains, an art gallery, a confererence center at the downtown Comstock Inn, a sleigh museum, a community actors group and theater, a number of community festivals and events, and a nearby town that has a historic village. You can rollerskake, bowl, and ave fun in the snow. Shopping is basically on three or four streets so walking is easy and the town is filled with restaurants and churches.
As you can see, I experienced many of things I could only read about on the Internet or in brochures. And the bonus for me was to find a street in town that was a cul de sac (a road with a circular turn around at the end of the street to return to the only street outlet. I took photos of houses and will be able to envision my characters living on this street.
The second bonus is that I learned the local newspaper in privately owned and is open to carrying local articles that would interest the people of the town. I am hopeful that I can receive some press when my book series is released. It also helps that the local Owoswo Bookstore is interested in carrying my books when they are relased and I offered to do a booksinging there. That would be a very nice opportunity also.
The third bonus is I can bring my novel to life as I visualize my characters in the real life environment. I’ve learned about events that can be used in my novel. Things I learned have stimulte new ideas. I know what happens there at Christmas and other holidays, where the city tree is displayed and what they do for that event. If they have an Easter egg hunt? Do they celebrate the 4th of July in a special way. Visiting also gives you contacts so that if you need to know something, you have a person to call. The only cost this is to you would be the travel expenses which is tax deductible since it’s a business expense and the benefits are high — realism, idea stimulation, personl interest in your novel, contacts and the ability to feel, taste, touch, smell, hear and see the location of your story.
Yes, you can fabricate a town, and you must if it’s speculative for example, but being there is a far greater investment especially for contemporary fiction, but historical fiction also is heightend by walking the fields of Gettysburg, exploring a real plantation, seeing migrant workers and where they live. How can imagine what it’s like to ride a godola in the Grand Canal unless you’ve experienced. I have, so should you.