Monday, September 21, 2009

Site Work

by Ben Small

Some weeks ago, Pat Browning blogged about how many times she doesn't have a clue about plotting her mysteries until she visits a site, or something like that. Well, that registered with me. Granted, I'd already been to Mount Rainier before I wrote Alibi On Ice, but having been to that site, having climbed that mountain, provided all the inspiration I needed for the story. It just flowed, naturally.

And when I was ready to write a second book, I had no idea what I wanted to write about, except that I wanted Morocco and Spain to be a part of it. My wife and I literally mapped the book's plot out over the course of a couple days on our hotel's cliff-side terrace in Arcos. The site we were in, and the sites and sights we'd seen, fed our imaginations. And maybe the wine we were sipping and the cheeses we nibbled helped a bit, too.

Same with my third book. I knew it would be a Denton Wright book, but I wasn't ready to wag the tail I'd left in The Olive Horseshoe. That will happen in the fourth book, set in Croatia and Slovenia, where we're heading now. The third book? I took a drive south of Tucson over the course of several days. Took lots of pictures. Then, looking at the pictures I'd taken on my computer, the plot just popped off the page, ran through my head, and then fell onto my word processor.

It's true, one can write a book about a place one's never visited. Many people do it. Not me. I want to go there, talk to the locals, take pictures, and soak up as much local color as I can. To me, that adds a realism one can't get from the internet alone.

But then that's just me.

Maybe Pat and I were related in another life...


Mark W. Danielson said...

I agree, Ben. There's nothing like being there.

Sheila Deeth said...

I'd always be nervous about writing a real place into a story. I guess it comes from watching movies with all these guys who criticize everything that's not quite right. Better imagine it - but nice to have been to a real place that anchors the imagined one for me.