Settings and Scenes
More than once, I’ve been asked by readers and groups, “How do you describe physical settings and particular scenes in your stories with such detail and accuracy? Is it mostly from research and computer searches?”
No, almost always it’s not. Yes, the modern computer search engines are marvelous tools. We can find out all kinds of things - facts, figures, far-distant places, fascinating background information and never leave our desk and computer. And sometimes I do look something up to help fill out a detail. But mostly I follow the almost cliche-like maxim of “write about what you know.”
One of the features of having lived for about 77 years and having traveled and lived all across the United States - from a state bordering on the Atlantic to now a state on the Pacific coast - is that I’ve experienced a lot of places. As the final, “About the Author,” item in my recently published book, Death Not Investigated, states, “…in diverse settings including metropolitan, inner city, suburban, medium-sized and small cities, small town, rural, and North Woods.”
Whether describing places in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Traverse City, Michigan, in the books of the “Death Most Unholy” series (aka the Danny and Tiny stories), or details in Death Crashes the Wedding like the features of the famous Mackinac Bridge, or the very long, detailed tracking account through the dense forest in Northern Michigan in Death Stalks the Forest, or the various settings involved in writing Death Not Investigated, or the prairie pothole country of Northern Iowa in Cellaring, well, I’ve “been there, done that.”
And I think it’s both fun and more authentic to write about places you know well and have actually experienced. If anything in my fiction writing can be said really to “work for me,” it might be that guidance, “write about what you know.”
That’s what I do.