This article is by Duncan McGeary.
I’ve never subscribed to the notion that one must “write about what you know.”
I mean, what do I know about a wild pig apocalypses? Or vampires who evolve? Or Donner Party werewolves? Or Bigfoot and gold miners?
This stuff is spun out of my imagination, and even when I research, I like to have the basics correct while I allow my ingenuity to create the rest.
But I see no reason why I can’t set my stories in places I know, as much as possible.
My Vampire Evolution Trilogy is set in central Oregon and the far north California coast. I thought it’d be interesting, for instance, to have vampires in a high desert setting with sunshine most of the year and very little cover.
The secondary location of Crescent City is the town I perhaps know second-best, after my hometown in Oregon. My wife, Linda, grew up there and we visit it on a regular basis. I love the beaches, and the wild undergrowth, and thought the darkness and damp would be an interesting place for a vampire to hide.
Tuskers is set in Arizona and Utah, but both locations are in the Great Basin, also known as the Great American Desert. The high desert outside my hometown of Bend, Oregon is very similar to these places. This terrain takes up much of America, after all, but perhaps isn’t used in books or movies as often as it could be.
Drawing From Real-Life Examples
While I say I like to create as much as I can from my own imagination, that doesn’t mean I don’t like having a real-life examples right in front of me. When I wrote my heroic fantasies years ago, I mirrored the journey’s in the books with the passes over the Cascade Mountains that I crossed regularly. I’d stop every few miles and describe what I was seeing around me.
I find, for instance, that if I travel to a locale like the one I’m describing in my book, that I can sit and takes pages and pages of notes just from one spot. And more pages of notes a short distance away. There are details that are just too good not to use, that my imagination simply couldn’t have contrived.
But most of all, I believe I’ve absorbed central Oregon in my bones. I grew up here, and I returned here as soon as I could after college. Even though my hometown has grown by ten times the population, the basic outline is still there. I can ignore the rest if I want. And the wilderness, Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and Broken Top, the national forests, the Deschutes River, the high desert with its wonderful badlands, these remain pretty much the same.
That isn’t to say I don’t like visiting new places in my mind, or trying to evoke them out research and my imagination. But when I write about the land I know, I believe it comes through in ways I probably can’t even see. The reader can pick up on that, I think. They can tell when I really know and love a place. It helps them believe, and if I can get them to believe the setting, maybe I can get them to believe the rest.
Even super-intelligent pigs on the rampage.
For Further Thought
Do you draw from real-life places when creating settings for your stories? What are some locations that you’ve used for inspiration?
About the Author:
Duncan McGeary has owned Pegasus Books in downtown Bend, Oregon for the last 30 years. He’s the author of numerous fantasies and historical horror novels, as well as the Vampire Evolution Trilogy. His latest novel, TUSKERS, is available on Amazon. Visit Duncan’s site at duncanmcgeary.com, and follow him on Facebook.