My friends live in my house. Actually, they own and live in the home that is the model for Aunt Becky's house in my work-in-progress. I've tweaked the layout a little to conform to the needs of the story, since, as far as they or I know, there are no hidden passageways in their house. Further, in my story, the summer kitchen is still standing, whereas the one that once stood behind the c. 1840s Federal-style brick home was destroyed by a storm years ago, long before my friends bought the place.
With much love and care, these friends of mine have created garden spaces around the property, places to 'light 'n' tie, dream, imagine, and contemplate the beauty of God's Creation, so as I altered the house to suit my WIP, those lovely gardens worked their way into the story.
As important as it is for me to thoroughly know my characters (see blog entry for Sunday, Feb. 14), I should also know the setting inside and out. If I don't have an actual house to reference, I sketch rough house or building layouts and maps of the landscape. Though I'm no artist, I sometimes draw a scene, as well. If I cannot see it, hear it, feel it, smell it, and sometimes taste it--experience it--then I probably will not be able to make it real to my readers. Taking such measures in the pre-writing process helps to keep things straight. In the case of my WIP, the library is on the west side of the house that faces north. I dare not forget that and put it where the parlor is.
Like historical romance writer Ramona K. Cecil, if at all possible, I go to the location that I'm researching--or one similar to it if it is fictiional--and walk the area, listen to the birds sing, smell the air, study the physical features, and feel the earth of that place beneath my feet. Early in my writing, I heard that if western writer Louis L'Amour said that a particular boulder stood at a certain fork in the road, it was there, unless someone had moved it since he visited the place. He ascertained that he knew his setting well. He conveyed that to his readers. Even if the setting is a total fiction, I should be as familiar with it as Tolkien was with Middle Earth and Lewis was with Narnia.
Fellow scribes, to what lengths do you go to know your setting? Click on "Comments" below to share.
By the way, my friends are the proprietors of New Creation Daylilies, located at the heart of a triangle formed by Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Click the link embedded in this paragraph to learn more. I thank them for granting me permission to post some of the photos above.