Last week I had the good fortune to find myself standing on the north bank of the Snake River beneath Table Rock Mountain. Isn't it beautiful? This is one of my favorite spots in the world, and where I set some scenes in my novel, Wanted.
Here's another view of the mountain from across the river. In Wanted Jo, one of the main characters, rides her horse to the top of the mountain and looks down at the river and valley below as she tries to find answers to her father's untimely death.
Standing beneath the mountain last week, I longed to be on top looking down just like Jo did.
But I wasn't there for research or to recreate my novel. I was there for a family reunion. See my mother was born across the river from Table Rock Mountain. I have visited the area many times and know it pretty well.
As I stood there taking in the scenery, smelling river grass and hearing tree leaves flutter in the breeze overhead, I wished that my readers could have been there with me. I tried my best to paint the scene with words, but it's not the same as being there.
The Snake River is as wild and impressive as I remembered. It looks shallow here because the water is so clear, but farther out there are sinkholes and rapids that are scary even in a boat.
(Side note: My mother and her brothers and sisters had to row across that river twice a day to go to school. When I was a kid and complained about walking a couple of blocks, Mom would remind me that it could be worse.)
There are many advantages to setting scenes in your novel in places you've been and know well.
- Your descriptions come alive.
- You're able to feel emotions your characters would have from their surroundings.
- And you can give attention to details that will add authenticity to your story.
Why do you think setting a novel in places you've been can be a good thing?
Don't get me wrong. I do believe an author can write amazing stories without actually visiting where they have set their books. The reason they can do that is they have done extensive research. However, visiting the actual setting makes writing about it much easier. Take it from a writer who has done both.