Saturday, November 28, 2009

Walk the Walk!

So my husband and I came down to the city for our annual gorge-fest with loved ones, and to spend the weekend. Aside from hanging out with friends, catching a show and eating all the wonderfully exotic foods that are so lacking upstate, another thing I was looking forward to doing while here was "walking in my characters' shoes." My novel opens on Wall Street, on a mid-day in September. I hadn't been down to Wall Street in quite a while, and the last time I was there, I certainly wasn't studying it through the eyes of a writer.

So that's where I headed late afternoon yesterday (perish the thought of getting out in time to actually be there at noon, when the lighting and general mood of the place might be more akin to how it would be in my book.) It was probably just as well that I arrived right before sundown, because there were only 25 or so tourists loitering about, as opposed to the usual 200. I was free to whisk between streets, craning my neck and talking to myself. (Yup, that's exactly what I did - I was in full-on eccentric writer mode!)

I'm so glad I made the pilgrimage; while what I currently have written would certainly pass, now that I have sharper visuals of where the opening events take place, I can add heightened color to each moment leading up to the catastrophe that sets my book in motion.

FIGURING IT OUT AS I GO: I often wonder how much artistic license we writers are allowed to give ourselves when it comes to place-setting. There will likely come a time in all our writings when we'll have to rely on diligent research and imagination alone to bring a certain locale to life. However, when visiting the real thing is possible, I strongly urge every writer to do so. There's something extremely inspiring about walking in your characters' footsteps!


  1. I think it's why I write fantasy. So I don't have to actually travel anywhere in order to create compelling visuals.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  2. There's some serious logic to that, Stephanie. I'm amazed at how much time I've spent researching for my novel (setting it in the 1920s certainly doesn't help things!)

  3. How fun Cammie! One of these days I'm going to write about a real place. I love the bit about walking in your character's footsteps--how poetic :)

  4. I like to mix reality with imagination myself, Natalie - I generally include references to and scenes in real places, but my "home base" is often a fictitious small town (as is the case with my current WIP.) I'd go CRAZY if I had to flip through a specific small town's archives trying to achieve accuracy!

  5. It must be fun living in the midst of all that goes on up there. You know, you reminded me of the first time I visited Wall Street. It was in the spring of 1989, and I was with my senior high school class. I have a picture of several classmates standing with a homeless woman. (Yes, she posed for the picture with a bunch of clueless 17 yr. olds.) What a statement that photo would make now, in 2009.

  6. Wow Amy, that could be a very interesting story (maybe a short personal essay). The place has become rather sanitized post-Giuliani, so your high school memory really captures a bygone era worth writing about. When I went down the other day, I had to try and imagine the place in Sept. 1920!