In movies, the production crew, actors, directors, etc…often go on location to film so the setting of the story is genuine and real. When they can’t go on location, they research the area and create a set, trying to make it as realistic as possible.
Writing is no different.
As a writer, I find it easier to write about things I am familiar with. Writing a death scene becomes a less trying task after experiencing loss firsthand. Writing my characters’ emotions flows smoothly when I’ve experienced those emotions myself. Since I am around children daily and have children of my own, writing from a child or teenager’s point of view is much more genuine. I grew up in California and the Pacific Northwest so I am able to easily write scenes in these locations because I’ve lived there. You get my point.
But there are times when firsthand experiences aren’t always possible. This is when research and going on location plays a vital role.
I once read a quote that said, “Even when writers aren’t writing, they’re thinking about writing.” This became more true than I realized when I went on vacation with my family last summer.
One of the books in my series partially takes place in Owego, a small town in Tioga County, New York. At the time, I had never been to Owego. My husband, however, grew up in that part of the country. While I listened to his stories, I took notes. I also perused through pictures and read up on this particular place via the internet. I had the research part taken care of, but I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted to see it for myself–that firsthand experience.
Since we were heading that direction for vacation anyway, and my husband knew I wanted to see it, we made a side stop in Owego.
Owego is located on the Susquehanna River. It’s a cool little village with a lot of history attached to it. Old historic houses dating back to the 1700’s, the old county courthouse, several monuments, and a bridge that connects the town to the highway on the other side.
I was interested in the scenery, the history, the culture, and the overall feel of the town, not only as a tourist but also as a writer. Even though I wasn’t writing at that moment, you can bet your life I was thinking about writing. We drove around various neighborhoods, walked around the main street, looked at monuments, and explored the riverwalk. I took pictures, carefully observed the locals, and took in every scent and sound.
The moment we returned to the hotel, I wrote down everything, making special notes about particular things I saw that I wanted to include in my book.
The entire on location experience was unforgettable. I saw things and places I’d never seen before, was able to get the firsthand experience I needed, spent some quality time with my family, and it was fun. I hope to return to Owego and visit other cities and towns of interest in the near future.