Location, location, location
In real estate the mantra “location, location, location” can often be heard. In many cases, a 900-square-foot home located a block away from the beach can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than a 2,000-square-foot home located miles inland, far away from the salty sea breezes. Since it’s impossible to re-locate the beach, having convenient access to it may mean sacrificing home size while paying increased property costs.
The same thing can be said about the importance of location in your fiction. After all, a story set in the snowy Alpine mountains of Switzerland will have a different feel—not to mention different characters, problems and conflicts—than a story set on a warm, sandy beach in Fiji. Situated there, Heidi may have had to worry about her fishing abilities rather than learning how to milk a mountain goat. Set in Arizona, Heidi may have had to battle rattlesnakes and sunstroke. But all three primary stories would still have centered on a young girl and her estranged grandfather.
Fictional characters who work in a grocery store are bound to have different encounters than characters who work in a maximum security prison. A minimum wage parking attendant will view the world differently than a law clerk making vastly more, just as a nurse working the graveyard shift in a low income hospital will not be subjected to the same tasks—and frustrations—as a top-tier advertising executive working in a Chicago high-rise. Location can, and should, present vast experiences and scenery for your characters and, therefore, for your readers as well.
Writers have the awesome opportunity to use the unique atmosphere of their story’s setting and the exclusive incidents that will arise from that locale to enhance and add depth and richness to the lives of their characters. It’s what makes your characters unique, gives them hurdles to leap over and challenges to conquer. Your core story doesn’t have to change but the panorama surrounding it should swirl with motion, excitement, and stimulation.
A sun setting on the peaceful edge of Lake Tahoe will have a dissimilar sensation than a sun setting over an inner city ghetto. Yet both locations can convey a poignant story of young lovers. Use your location to its fullest capacity by treating it like one of your most influential characters because, after all, it is.
Loni Emmert is the co-author of BUTTON HOLLOW CHRONICLES #1: THE LEAF PEEPER MURDERS available August 2010 from Mainly Murder Press. She is a member of SinC, RWA and writes articles on writing, reading and other related topics. (http://thewordmistresses.com)