Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting it Right - Accuracy with Real Settings

This is a picture my brother took of the view from Columbia Tower in Seattle. It is one of the places that I visited when I stayed with my brother last year. It was taken at night with some sort of fancy-pants filter that he uses on his bazillion dollar camera. I have one taken from my phone that I was going to use until he found out and sqwaked with indignation over it. Apparently it didn't do the city justice. His city.

I included a description of this view in my romantic suspense, Purple Knot, as sort of an interesting tidbit a character notices. It happens to be the view from a bathroom stall in the building. The stall's outer wall is floor to ceiling tinted glass so that you can look out over the city while you take care of business. This is a real thing locals show visiting friends.  I got a huge kick out of it.

That got me thinking about accuracy in writing. I've received emails from readers that live in the areas I write about and are so happy I got details correct and mentioned small establishments they frequent. It makes them feel like I've taken care with something dear to them...their home.

My current WIP takes place on Noble Island, a fictional setting based on the San Juan and Orca Islands off the coast of Washington. The photo to the left, taken by my brother, is of a lighthouse there and it is a place I use in my story. I hope to visit it in the winter.

Do you as a writer do anything to ensure you get the setting details correct? Sure, there's Google Earth and word of mouth, but have you found anything else that works short of visiting?


Angeline said...

I write fantasy, so my towns and cities are always completely made up. I do, however, use a lot of elements of places I know, have been to and have been inspired by. And you're right, there is no substitute for actually visiting the place.

DEZMOND said...

nice photos, Raquel.
Yes, it is very nice having a good research about the place you are writing about if the story is set in some real place. You've described it in the post very beautiful how readers love it when they see their own place described in true details.

stu said...

I find that the main thing is the feel of the place. The version of York I use in my urban fantasy novels is at least partly made up, but I definitely wanted to keep the feeling of a city that creeps up on people, and where the past is so important that it cuts into practical considerations such as getting cars through the place.

Linda Glaz said...

I actually blend details. Yes, I research the area and add enough reality to give it the flavor, but I do my best to keep the fiction just that. I think if it were a big setting like a large city it would be better to be exact.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I was lucky - since my story takes place in another galaxy, I got make up whatever I wanted.

Anonymous said...

I'm about to dive into revision, and I have a whole bunch of setting details I need to straighten out. I like looking at pictures for details.

mshatch said...

For my witchy regency romance I had to look up lots of stuff because even though I was twisting history a little I wasn't changing it completely. Plus there was lots of potions with actually ingredients from Culpeper's Herbal, places in London and the fashions of the day. love the lighthouse pic, btw.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Angeline, Stu, Alex - I wondered what you fantasy and scifi authors would say. You guys amaze me. The detail needed to create a whole other world just floors me.

Dezmond - Thank you so much!

Linda - Thats a great idea.

Madeline and Mshatch - so I'm hearing tons of research is the key. I actually like doing that.