Well, I finished mid-terms and now I’d like to go to sleep. Unfortunately, I have a late meeting this afternoon so I’m still in the office. I’ve got some writing I want to do, but I thought a quick post might be in order.
Over on her blog, Patty Abbott asked where writers tend to set their scenes, and about where writers feel comfortable. That got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing. And sometimes silly.
I guess there are two sides to that question. Where does a writer feel comfortable, in the sense of being familiar with a place that is featured in a scene? And where does a writer feel emotionally comfortable?
I think it’s important, although not always absolutely necessary, to at least link your scenes physically to places you are familiar with. Or, you need to make yourself familiar with those places. Cold in the Light is set in Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains, an area I’m intimately familiar with. The Talera books are set on another planet, and I’ve…only been there a few times. But what I haven’t seen in person I try to make up for with research. As writers, we live in a boon time for that. Just about every place has been photographed and those pictures are online. It’s not a complete substitute for actually walking the ground of a place, but it can sure provide many important details. If I need to get an idea of what a jungle waterfall looks like on Talera, I can at least start by checking out photos of jungle waterfalls here on Earth.
On the other hand, when it comes to emotion, I tend to think writers should work from a position of discomfort. I don’t think you want to feel too emotionally comfortable in your fictional world, or else a good source of story tension will be lost. I think this is especially true in some genres. Take horror fiction, for example. I think the best fiction comes when writers are experiencing at least some of the same emotions they want the reader to experience. I realized from Patty’s post, that I like to use claustrophobic situations in my horror. I like to use the dark woods. And those kinds of situations make me intensely uncomfortable myself.
What say you? Is it different for other genres? Or does the rule generally hold true?