Monday, February 8, 2010

There Are Places I Remember...

I get ideas from my writing all over the place, but perhaps one of the most important resources I draw upon is location. I have experienced some very special places in my life through family memories (our garden plot in a community garden, the woods surrounding my house and the Yacht Club I swam at every summer), fourteen years of summer camp (Camp Christopher), international travels (especially Japan and Costa Rica) and times with friends (Nick’s basement where we used to push his couches together and watch The Princess Bride). Place is important to me and I can still close my eyes and picture every corner in the house I grew up in or the community theatre I practically lived at during high school. There are so many places that are special to me, and I often draw from them for inspiration in my writing.

For example, in Canary Kate recalls early days spent sitting with her mom and brother watching her dad coach basketball. I grew up watching my dad coach his teams, playing with my My Little Ponies on the bleachers and shooting tennis balls into the nets just like Kate does. Kate watches her mom slip away at a hospice similar to the Hospice of the Western Reserve, where I volunteered with students from my school. My places are vivid and full of the emotion I felt when I was a part of that location. I feel like my characters become a part of my experience when I invite them into the same world I inhabited.

In my new book, Circles Within Circles, much of the action takes place in fields behind my main character Karen’s house. These fields are the same fields I ran through when I was in Japan staying in a little city called Katsuyama.

(This is the view of the mountains above to fields I ran through every day for a week. If you look up at the top on the left and right, you can see Japanese shrines. It was one of the most amazing places I've ever been in my life).

I remember running in these fields and thinking that this may be a place I would never return to. It was a little remote town that my group stayed at for a week during my Fulbright trip. It wasn’t a major city, it wasn’t easy to get to and the idea that I was in a place that I probably would never ever be again overwhelmed me. However, I was able to make these fields alive again in my story and much like I did, Karen and her sister race through these fields, fields that become the central point to the story.

Location to me is vivid and real. My characters walk in paths that I have entered before, and it feels incredible when I can view the world in a whole new way through my character’s eyes.

What about you? Do you use personal locations in your story? Tell me about them!

5 comments:

Sarah said...

I do. It's much easier to write places you know. I'm also really lucky to have a father who was in the Navy. So growing up I got to experience many different places. It adds to writing.

Kristan said...

Place is definitely key for me, although it's not always a place I've been. I mean, a lot of times it is, lol -- particularly my college campus, my home cities (current and past), or Spain (the love of my life, lol). But places can also be ones that I've dreamed about vividly, or imagined so often that they almost seem real to me now.

Kristan said...

Place is definitely key for me, although it's not always a place I've been. I mean, a lot of times it is, lol -- particularly my college campus, my home cities (current and past), or Spain (the love of my life, lol). But places can also be ones that I've dreamed about vividly, or imagined so often that they almost seem real to me now.

Lisa Nowak said...

I know exactly what you mean. The manuscripts I've written take place in a town I love and would still live in if choices and circumstances hadn't led me away and complicated things. I can't even begin to say how much that place means to me.

The next book I'm considering is by necessity going to have a more ambiguous "every city" feel to it. I'll probably still use memories of places that are familiar, but the town will be more of an amalgam.

AchingHope said...

Ooh pretty :)

I don't know, my current wip is set in a world of isles where there's lots of rocks in one, and complete desert in another, and I've never seen real, real mountains, and the closest thing to a desert I've ever been is Jockey's Ridge in NC.

I suppose that's why I want to travel more, to be able to give my work a more real feel to it.