Monday, September 15, 2014

Geographic Issues

Due to my diatribes/obsessions on South Africa and Detroit, you may have noticed that even if I'm significantly altering the history or even present rules of reality in a real-world place, I want to be pretty accurate with regards to said real-world place.

Novel-wise, I've so far only done my home state of New Jersey once, this past November. I set it in my area, but just prior to my birth. So, enough overlap of geography I was very familiar with, combined with those apocryphal things of an era (and area) which give places in time their flavor (and no, that novel isn't finished, though I did hit the requisite 50k).

Manasquan Inlet, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My April novel, closer to The End than the November one, is still not finished. I know how that one ends, though (it's a riff on Hamlet); I just need to get there. I originally set it in Maine, or New England anyway, with a notion of cliff-y rocky beaches not unlike the Cornwall setting of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. Now I'm wondering if the story would be better served if I moved it to New Jersey as well. Geographically, so much of what I've already written and envisioned fits. Except for the cliffs and rocks part. You see, New Jersey is rather flat, and the beaches are sandy.

So I need to decide just how much I want to bend reality, in my actually non-supernatural novel (a departure, I know). The Atlantic Highlands is the highest coastal point south of Maine, but that high point is not where the waves are breaking. There's an inconvenient-to-the-story marina there, and a bridge. I'm loathe to get rid of the house's position on Plot Cliff, and Plot Cliff's position with regards to the ocean. Interestingly, there is a mansion on a hill in the Atlantic Highlands, the Strauss Mansion, though it isn't the sort of architecture I had in mind. Unlike Detroit and South Africa, it's rather easy for me to go and drive around and look at what I want (it's even in the county I'm from, Monmouth), but that high point is still not "correct".

It's fiction, I know, I can just make it right with a metaphorical sweep of the pen, and probably will. But it's a strangely hard decision for me to make.


  1. Your post shows how important the setting of a story is; I wish I could give you advice on where to set your story, but ultimately it has to be whatever feels right to you. Setting is difficult for me to describe; my first drafts usually have a lot of dialogue and not enough description of where the characters are.

    1. Thanks for reading! I also feel like I tend not to get setting "right" in the first draft. It might be indicated, but that can be either too long winded or far too short. Or a whole lot of telling but not a lot of actual flavor.