Friday, February 3, 2017

Reality in Stories

C. Hope Clark recently answered a reader’s question about writers using actual locations in their stories—“do they need to get permission?”

Clark’s response touched on all the issues I faced when I decided to use Bishop Hill, Illinois, a real place, in my mystery Clouds Over Bishop Hill.

Yes, I wanted that extra “oomph” of reality. I kept the centrally located village park and the layout of the streets around it pretty much intact. Same with most of the backroads. I altered the scale of the geography in a few places and relegated the wind turbines to a metaphor.

Yes, I knew a few people would not be pleased. There are quite a few pithy quotes out there about the folly of trying to write for everyone. Look them up for some inspiration.

Yes, I avoided shining a bad light on real people and businesses. They were my friends and neighbors for 24 years. I moved my fictional Lutfisk Café to a vacant lot across the street from the real restaurant that was my favorite haunt for a lot of years. I let the Colony-era buildings be themselves. They’ve been working on character since 1846. I took extra efforts to make sure my fictional characters had their own unique personalities. Overall, if a building or business or person could be changed or moved—I did it.

Yes, I made sure the bad stuff happened well away from the village in otherwise empty places.

Yes, I named as many local towns as I could. I wanted to spread the joy around, because it is a joyful experience to read about familiar places used in fictitious, mischievous ways within a book.

Yes, I tried to keep my villains, my bad guys, as out-of-towners and I almost made it. One local made it in, but he’s no one that I ever met.

Yes, I tried to be positive. It is just in my nature.

Find C. Hope Clark’s thoughts about “Using Real Places in Your Story” in the Jan. 20th edition of Funds for Writers.

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