Archive for September, 2017

Location as a character

Whenever a writer makes a big deal about where a story takes place, the location, in essence, becomes another character in the story. Initially, one would think this would be true for every story ever written, but that’s not the case.

There are books, especially mystery books, where a writer could plop his or her characters into any gritty noir-like city-scape, any post-apocalyptic dystopian environment, or any charming small town, and the story would still play out the same. Admittedly, my books can be like that. I feel it is an advantage. Readers from other parts of the country and world can see themselves and people they know in my books.

What I’m talking about is when the location is so unique, the story would be bereft without it. The location becomes imperative to the legitimacy of the story. If it is a real-life location, the writer has to be careful, because there are pitfalls in missing things or getting them wrong. If a reader is familiar with that place, they will become distracted with the inaccuracies and lose focus on what is going on with the plot. They will lose emotional investment, and that is bad news for the writer, especially if the reader can’t or won’t finish the book.

Getting the details right is why editing and rewrites are so very critical. I understand that a writer has deadlines and there is a sense of urgency to get the story done and out. But once the product is on the market, warts and all, there is only so much damage control a writer can install after the fact. I know of what I speak. I am the queen of impatience, and it shows in some of the earlier versions of my series. I can never take down the critical reviews about my editing. They are a sobering reminder of the need to slow down, read every sentence with objectivity, and do my best to get it right.