Just like with character development, I often like to use a real-life visual to remind me of small details I might not think of when it comes to locations. Depending on the story, location will play a different level of importance, and in my novel Oldsters, location does play a strong role – mostly because the group travels down Route 66 from Bloomington, Illinois to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Also, since my characters are elderly, and I have a couple of flashbacks in the book, I researched places like Chicago in the 1960s and even earlier decades in England and other places. So I was lucky to have these kind of story elements that naturally lent themselves to placing a strong emphasis on location.
Below is just a small collage of some of the locations I researched…from modern day downtown Bloomington, where the gang goes antique shopping, to Buckingham Fountain in 1960’s Chicago to several stops along Route 66 to the retirement home that inspired my own Avalon.
Believe me, there were many more. I used maps of Route 66 that I created a day by day itinerary for my characters to travel by. This led to easy scene and chapter divisions, and gave me stopping points for each of their daily travels. I think it’s the journalist in me that likes doing this type of research – in fact I had to be careful not to go off on research tangents when I find something interesting, especially the history of cities and landmarks. But in the end, it works for me. It’s just an added bonus that I now know more about places like Cadillac Ranch, the transportation lines of Chicago and the Moss Munger Motel on Route 66!
I should say, that even though location is important to my story, I don’t necessarily place an unnatural emphasis on it via description within the book. I think a better way of saying it is that I’m more aware of location in this book. Also, as a writer who is more comfortable writing dialogue, making myself focus on location is a good way of making sure I’m not ignoring the description I otherwise may skimp on.
Next up: Secondary/Minor Character Development.