Saturday 8 October 2011

Location, location, location

Years ago I read Madeleine's Ghost by Robert Girardi, bought solely because I loved the front cover. I've read it several times since, because I equally loved his evocative descriptions of New Orleans and Brooklyn. He has a wonderful knack of bringing these places alive and making even the most mundane of daily occurances feel exotic, just because it's happening in a different country. (While searching for the link on Amazon, I discovered he's written lots of other books, so I've now added them all to my list of books I need to read.)

I got to thinking, "Well, actually, Brooklyn isn't that exotic." Probably the people who live and work in Brooklyn don't think it's exotic at all, it's just home.

I set myself a task of writing about my hometown. At the time, I had a story that I was already working on which was set around some generic inner city canal. Luckily, my hometown has a river, so I switched location, changed some of the descriptions to match the real area and hey presto! - I had an exotic town.

Except I didn't. Because in the meantime, I'd started writing another story that linked with the first one. And my descriptions got a bit out of hand. My narrator added in a manor house that doesn't exist in my hometown. And then this same wayward narrator added a war memorial in a town square, which also doesn't exist.

Writers, I believe, do this all the time: it's called creative license, and means I can play around with geography as I wish. But by playing around so much - and actually missing out the most famous feature of my hometown - I'm left with a place that, while being very important to the stories, cannot be named; and I'm left with stories that haven't become as exotic as I'd hoped.

Although, maybe if I find a reader who lives in Brooklyn, they'd see the romance that I found in their town within the pen of Robert Girardi.


  1. I'm the same way about New England. Oh well, I guess American people might think our hometowns are exotic :-)

  2. Hi Sarah - looking around at my grey and drizzly road right now, I'm not so sure lol

  3. I'd have to agree. My hometown has one business street and no library. If's it's exotic, it's for it's lack of anything.

    But by making up a place Annalisa, even if it's bits and pieces of ones you know well, you are creating an exotic place. Sorta. Its new, and someplace your readers will have to discover for themselves.

  4. It's somewhere I'm discovering myself too, Jenny - these narrators are throwing in new landmarks willy-nilly!


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