Place makes a difference in stories.
I’ve been inspired to write mysteries every time I visit Galena, Illinois. It’s not just the mid-19th century rebuilding of an early-19th century town that fascinates me. It’s also the roads I take to get there — the rolling hills and steep gullies always make the drive new to me. I love getting to Stockton and seeing the land dip and open on the west side of town. And then arriving in Elizabeth, with another surprise vista and a curve that — for a brief moment — reminds me of the hazards early settlers faced. And in that, I include the earliest settlers, the nomadic early Americans who followed buffalo, built burial mounds and peopled the region long before my European ancestors even knew the place existed.
I have also been inspired by the vast, flat black soil around the Illinois town where I grew up. Fields that grew corn, peas, asparagus and pumpkins surrounded my home town, a kind of cocoon holding us all together. And those miles of even landscape led me to believe — naively, I know now — that people were also level, the same, with the same opportunities and resources.
The land makes a difference.
For another perspective, take a look at this old post from Writing Rural.
In one of my book clubs, our theme this year is authors and stories of the Pacific Northwest. We started with a talk about the “Missoula (Montana) Mafia” from a member who lived there. Nevermind that we were liberal in our interpretation of the geography, we wanted an array of authors and topics. The project described in the LA Times is also place-based. I can imagine doing one about any region.
More than that, I wonder about the role of place in a book. How many stories had to happen where they did? When does setting become another character?
Rediscovering the lost writers of the Plains – LA Times
Writing history or historical fiction takes research if you want to get it right. These photos are among the sorts of things I’d put on my wall or computer screen if I were writing about WWI.
I always look for images to help build the places in my imagination. One of my favorite sources is the Library of Congress. LOC photo collections are fabulous. Check them out after you look at these.
These Unseen Photos From World War I Are Unbelievable