Location as a character

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

There are books, especially mystery books, where the characters could be plopped into any gritty noir-like city-scape, any post-apocalyptic dystopian environment, any charming small town, and the story would still play out basically 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. That location is imperative in the legitimacy of the story. If it is a real life location, you have to be really 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 characters. 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.

This is why editing and rewrites are so very important. I get 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 you can install after the fact. Believe me, 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.

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