When I first started writing people always asked why I didn’t write about Cayman. The truth? I write about where the stories and characters take me.
I was pleasantly surprised when one of my stories (yes, it did decide) happened in Grand Cayman. Before I knew it, I had a four book series on my hands. Exciting right? Well, yes and no.
I’d never written a series before and not all the stories had the same characters. What now? While attending the 2013 RWA Conference I was pleasantly surprised to learn a series could be about a place and didn’t need reoccurring characters. Perfect! Problem solved.
The term ‘write what you know’ took on new meaning. Writing a series set in Cayman was going to be a piece of cake. I grew up there, knew the island, people, and places. No research necessary, right? Wrong! It’s surprising how different things really are from how we remember them. Here was my interesting experience.
YOUR MEMORIES WILL BE TAINTED
No matter how well you think you know a place, chances are it’s not exactly how you remember it. In book one of the series a murder takes place at a hotel. I though I had a clear vision in my mind how the hotel looked. My mother worked there and I went there several times as a child and even went to a party of two. While researching it for visual authenticity (it was torn down years ago) it was nothing like I remembered as a child. The great thing about fiction? You can change stuff. I liked the version in my head better so I kept that one and changed the name of the hotel.
TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES
You won’t think you need to, you pass it every day or on a regular basis, but you’d be surprised how different things are when you take a good look around or start trying to write a vivid description of what you see, smell, and here. Photos won’t give you everything, but they sure help. I found combining the images from the photos and the emotions the places evoked was a successful mixture.
CAYMAN IS AWESOME
Even on an island as small as Cayman (26 miles long 8 miles wide) we have fantastic features I’d never seen or hadn’t been to in years. Experiencing what the island has to offer in scenery, culture, and people made my scenes come alive in a way they wouldn’t have if I hadn’t enjoyed them first hand. Attending cultural events and documenting the details: sights, sounds, people, tastes, and smells is a great way to capture the essence of a place or event that can be added to your writing in general or the story.
I’ve merely scratched the surface of Cayman and it’s people with book two and I’m excited to learn more about the beautiful island and I grew up on along with the people and places.
What about you? Do you prefer to write where you live or explore the world and the unknown for your story settings?