That is why I write about these places. Sure, I could imagine being in many other locations and write about those. I'm sure I could do the research about those places and make it seem authentic enough. Many authors do this and do it quite successfully. I, however, find it much more real and raw to write about places I can see in my head, not because I've found photos on Flicker or looked at Google Maps, but because I can remember them from my own experience. Much like I try to use personal experience to enhance emotional content, or personality traits I've witnessed in myself, family, friends or strangers to enhance authenticity in my characters, I find that using places with which I am familiar makes them that much more real in my mind and hopefully that of my readers'.
My upcoming Novel, Beyond the Reach of Judgement features many places including Kansas City, MO, Las Vegas, Niagara Falls and Warsaw, MO. While in the big picture, my intimate knowledge of these places may not matter to the story's plot or flow, I feel that my personal experience has been valuable in several key aspects. For example - early in the plot my main male character, Julien, finds himself in a not so great part of town intentionally with ill-intent. How did I know where in Kansas City to send Julien for this story? Besides the fact that this neighborhood appears on countless lists of "Most-dangerous," I also use to live there. Here are some of my photos:
|My old apartment building in the old Kansas City Osteopathic Hospital. While it does not appear in my story, it is interesting none the less.|
|My medical school was right across the street (thankfully) and was the main reason I choose to live in this neighborhood. It is a beautiful, but out-of-place campus, in a very old part of Kansas City|
|Next door, was the Seven Eleven.|
And these hotels, do feature in my story and were next door to the above Seven Eleven.
But it's more than just knowing the "bad parts" of town and the "good parts" of town, because most readers, unless they too have lived in those places, wouldn't know the difference and may not even care about the accuracy in a Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy novel. It's about knowing the vibe of the City and its people. It's about being able to understand that it could be possible for my characters to be what and who they are and do the things I wish them to do in that environment. It is because I can picture Julien living at 909 Walnut or similar highrise loft and driving through the streets to Independence Avenue to the motels rumored to have prostitutes in their walls and then later to party it up in The Plaza and Power and Light District. I've driven those same roads and walked those same streets. I've eaten at those restaurants and danced at those clubs.
Niagara Falls at Dusk and Night:
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Is firsthand experience important to making a location feel real or am I just a lazy/poor/unimaginative writer looking for excuses to show off my travel photography?