Theater Masks

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The time and place conundrum

I'm working on my new book and have encountered an interesting issue. My previous books were set in two fantasy worlds, Anywhere USA, and a fictional school. This book is set in the not-too distant future. It starts in New Jersey and then moves to Ohio.

The issue is (which I guess isn't REALLY an issue but more of an interesting note) that setting it in a place that actually exists, with real geography (although slightly altered due to the plot) feels strange. It's odd writing about roads I drive on every day. The thing is, the book HAD to be set in America. I figured why fictionalize it when I can use the real place I know, the real roads and the real buildings? The thing is, writing about places you know brings on this weird meta-feeling, like you really SHOULDN'T be doing it because it feels like cheating almost. Then again, Stephen King sets everything in Maine which he knows well. I guess, if done right, it's just as fictional to those who don't know the area as anything I can come up with, right?

Of course, once you start, it's hard to break free from that reality. As the characters go to Ohio, so goes the geography. I simply don't know Ohio well, but it is essential for the characters to take a longish car trip. I go to OH a couple of times a year to visit my wife's family, so I'm aware of the basic geography. I know what the country looks like and I know how people are. I DON'T really know the roads like I do here.

As the book progresses, I'm finding I need to make stuff up a little bit more. I can look at a map, but I'm still kind of faking my way through it. At first I was kind of anal about getting it right, but I'm realizing it doesn't really matter all that much. The main action once they get to Ohio is in a warehouse. Do I need to find a REAL warehouse to set it in? I don't THINK so...maybe it was just built in the last few years...anyway, I'm finding that I prefer making up the geography to using reality. In a way, it's actually easier to just make it up. Still, it's an interesting challenge.

How have you dealt with this?

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