Thursday, December 18, 2014
Strategy # 6 Homespun Locale: Connect
Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact
Whether you do your research from the armchair comfort of your home or are able to venture into onsite research, consider doing it as if you are writing a travel piece. (You might consider using portions for blog spots later as well.) Think of what a tourist might want to know. Immediately you have a built in interest connection. For example, in addition to their feature stories, the magazine Via always has at least four smaller columns that include places to eat, must see locations, bits of history, and often the unexpected. Their readers expect to see these categories.
Look for a local magazine within the geographic habitat area you’re interested in developing. And/or go online and check for popular columnists. Merrie Destefano shared in an interview that she followed a few New Orleans blogs when she began researching her novel to catch the ‘voice’ of the city. San Francisco had columnist Herb Caen for decades. He became know nationally as the voice of the city. If anyone needs to know what the local population thought important thirty years ago, reading his archived columns would give a good representation.
Choose a city, type in the name and columnists. Then pick the largest paper first and scroll through the column categories. Then go back and pick one of the smaller papers. Compare subject choices.
If you are using a place that is local and familiar, take a day trip from another perspective. If you usually go with friends or family—go alone. Or reverse—if you usually visit some place alone next time travel with a friend or two who have never been there before and see it through their eyes.
Here’s an exercise on finding a travel idea close to home from L. Peat O’Neil in his book Travel Writing.
“Here are the kinds of questions to ask yourself: Is there a nearby college campus with historical buildings? Does the community have a park featuring a nature center or wildlife preserve? Have any famous people lived in the area—writers, artists, performers, political notables? Are their former homes open to visitors? Perhaps there is a nearby shopping district or local crafts or antiques. What is the history of that statue in front of the civic center? Why are all the Italian restaurants in a certain neighborhood? What is it about the river that attracts all the kayakers in spring? Why is that art gallery named after certain family?”
Share: What is the first thing you look for when you visit any new locale? My children were amazed that I would always spot the bookstores immediately. : )
Read deep, marcy