1. Ian Blake Jr
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    Ian Blake Jr New Member

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    Location, location, location...?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ian Blake Jr, May 25, 2016.

    I'm new to the forums and have an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for some time now.

    It takes place in Florida, a place I've never been.

    I always find details draw me further into a book and the world being created by the author.

    How much can I rely on others and research to create a written reality?
     
  2. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Do you live close enough to visit Florida? I can't tell you how much will work, but I think it's a descent idea to try to experience it for yourself. Then again, people write all sorts of books about subjects they don't have personal experience with. I mean, you can write a novel about a doctor, even though you've never worked in the medical field. Even still, I think it's a lot easier to convey experience.
     
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  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    As someone who lives in the South but not Florida, I can tell you that that specific place seems to be a bizarre culture all of its own. For reference, Florida Man. I don't know if a non-Floridian could recreate it to the satisfaction of a native. But anyway.

    In seriousness, I rely heavily on research myself because I'm not able to travel. I have ultimately set several stories in the Southeast US and had prominent characters come from my area because it's what I know, but even within the SE there's a lot of variance. Florida is not Louisiana is not North Carolina. But on the other hand, there's still a lot of variety within a state.

    I think the trick is to not tie yourself to too specific a location. Say your story takes place in a small town in South Carolina, but don't say it's in Cowpens because I've been there and I'll know every detail that's wrong. If you can't go to the place, invent a fictional one. Get an idea of what small town SC looks like with google earth so you can approximate Cowpens without name-dropping it. I'm sure Florida has weird hick small towns and shitty busy cities and everything in between - as long as you're not too specific and you do enough research to know how Floridians talk and a few cultural touchstones, it should be fine. Not ideal, but acceptable.
     
  4. Ian Blake Jr
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    Ian Blake Jr New Member

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    Wow, thanks for the quick responses!

    Both were very helpful.

    The location is a made up South Florida town to avoid the issue of having to be too specific. But I want to get the feeling right for the location. I also think meeting people will help with some of my character development.

    If you have experience traveling somewhere for research, did it help?

    Florida is a 4 hour flight and probably about $600 round trip. So, it's realistic goal worth considering.
     
  5. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I've used Google street view to scout out areas that I don't live. It can be helpful for some things.
    I'm in Florida if you have any specific questions.
     
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  6. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, we're a real gunslinging bunch around here. Welcome, by the way. :)
     
  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are two schools of thought on this.

    Dean Koontz is able to set scenes in places he's never been and somehow pulls it off. You'd have to ask him how he does it, though. (Maybe he's talked about it in an interview and you might find it online.)

    Or you could go live there for a while. This is the one I always opt for. Oddly enough, even though I've lived in several major Canadian cities, I'm partial to setting stories in the town I grew up in down in Nova Scotia.

    And a third thought strikes me: find a way to set the story in the town/city where you live. I know, you'll say it's not possible because of x, y, or z, but there's always a way. It'll stretch your imagination in ways you didn't think possible.
     
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  8. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine dealt with places I have never been and probably never will visit, further complicated by the fact it was 2000 years ago. However, I found Google Earth a fantastic research tool for terrain. One of my legs was a caravan from Kashgar in China through the Irkeshtam Pass into Kyrgyzstan, down the Alay Valley to Tajikistan through what is now Dushanbe (didn't exist then) past the ruins of the fort of Alexandria on the Oxus (Amu Darya River) into Afghanistan. I literally "walked" that whole several hundred mile leg using Google Earth at ground level, and also used Google maps with contemporary photographs. Plus hikers' reports who had traveled that route. It worked out well, and the approach into the Pass was much different and easier than I thought, I could see why that was one of the preferred routes. That research, plus a lot of imagination, and not doling out more details than I had to, worked.

    Also just generally googling the area helped. Outside of Liqian in Gansu, I googled info on each of the modern towns along the Silk Road AKA Highway 630 today, and in Zhangye Danxia I found a stupendous piece of scenery that they would have gone through... HWY 630 goes right through it. Google it up to see what I am talking about, see the pictures. Had I missed that, anyone who had been in Gansu province would have wondered why my characters never noticed it.
     
  9. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    [​IMG]
    Zhangye Danxia. That is the Silk Road in the valley
     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As noted above, Google Earth, street view, etc. You can get details of just about any place you want to set a story.
     
  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the advantages, though, was that no one will say, "Oh, man! I was there 2000 years ago and you got it so wrong." Even anthropologists are pretty forgiving unless there are documented case studies of every day life from that period. And those are pretty rare. :)
     
  12. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Still, I got some help on Bactria, since that is kind of an historical black hole... Professor at of U of London who is one of the world's experts on Central Asian and ancient Central Asian languages, translated quite a few Bactrian texts... gave me a vetted batch of Bactrian names for all the drivers on the caravan, named my Bactrian princess, and screened my book for Islamic anachronisms (pre-chronisms?) Mohammad is 500 years in the future. Also read my book and gave me great review on my website. So I guess I can take all the critics who think Afghanistan isn't like that at all, and refer them to him. "Bactria of the Thousand Richest Cities"
     
  13. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    I've been to Florida twice. As far as buildings go, it's basically just like everywhere else in America, with a few exceptions. They tend to have flat roofs in the south as opposed to the angled ones in the north. That's the stereotype at least.

    But yeah, buildings. In poorer areas the houses are humbler. In areas like Miami you get skyscrapers. Also, Florida is hot. Yeah, I know that's common sense, but it's hot. Soak a towel in hot water and drape it over your head. That's what Florida's humidity is like. The air is so saturated sometimes that you feel like you should start growing gills. I'm fairly certain it's the only state on the continental US to have a sub-tropical climate (EDIT- actually the entire eastern seaboard has a subtropical climate, Florida is actual Tropics), so it makes sense.

    There's also Spanish Moss everywhere, draping over the trees, sometimes the power lines. I've never been to the Everglades though. I don't quite fancy being eaten by a gator.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
  14. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure I've ever seen a predominance of flat roofs. However, the houses here tend to be single-story because A/C for an upstairs is expensive. Never saw a house with a basement either. The humidity isn't always awful, but it's noticeable through the summer. We get a lot of afternoon showers through the summer, cooling things off.
    Some areas have gators wandering around but in most places you'd never see any. I had a small one show up in a retaining pond for a few months, then it wandered off. I think the most common place you would see one in populated areas is a golf course.

    I think 90% of Florida is going to look like any other place in America. Strip malls & Walmarts everywhere.
     
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  15. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, my fiancee grew up in Florida which means I've been there about 5 times in the last few years and gotten to see more of that state than I ever thought necessary. So, the first thing I'm going to say is that you're going to need to decide exactly where in Florida you are. The state has multiple cultural zones and multiple climate zones. North Florida and the Panhandle are going to have a more Southern-tinged culture, whereas as you head into South Florida you're going to get a lot more Northern transplants from places like New York, which is to say nothing of the fact that if you're in Miami, the dominant culture is Hispanic (that city has it's own very particular culture). Then you get weird micro-differences between towns - for instance, my fiancee's family lives in Port St. Lucie, close to Palm Beach - but Palm Beach is way richer and more upper class, whereas St. Lucie is a bit more down to Earth but also a bit less cultured (there are goods and bads to that).

    You do see a lot of suburban sprawl - most of Florida is recently developed. In my experience it's also the most laid-back culture of anywhere I've been in America. It's warm, it's paradise, and people in shorts and flip flops is not an uncommon sight. St. Lucie has tons of crane crossing signs (the birds, not the machines) and yes you occasionally see cranes in the roadway like deer.

    Also, the grocery store chain Publix has become melded into Floridian identity and has a cult following (especially for their sandwiches). This is something that I as a non-Floridian am shocked and somewhat troubled by - but in fairness it is a nice grocery store.
     
  16. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also this, so much this.
     
  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's so you know where to find your boat after a hurricane. ;)
     
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  18. Ian Blake Jr
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    Ian Blake Jr New Member

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    This community has been great. All of your posts have been helpful (and the video was funny)

    My story takes place in a fictional Florida city named Cape Town. I'm modeling it after some features of Goodland, FL (which you should look up if you have some spare time)

    Anyway, Labor Day is coming up and I've got a long weekend ahead of me. So I've booked a flight to Fort Myers, Florida. I'm trying AirBNB for the first time on the recommendation of friends to help save money.

    I'm really excited and will share my experience when I get back.

    Thank you again!
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Excellent way to go. See it. By now you have some idea of what you need to learn. I've done that myself, several times. No substitute, really, for going to see for yourself.

    It also helps a lot if your POV character is an outsider. That way, they will look at Florida the same way you do ...as an outsider. I think the biggest problem with selecting a location you're not intimately familiar with yourself, is creating a POV character who comes from that place. They will inevitably see things differently from the incomer ...no matter how long the incomer has been there, or how long the native has been away. The incomer has implanted memories of other origins; the native does not. The native may be very well traveled, but Florida will always be where they are 'from.'
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I do suspect that is totally photoshopped, though. Here's the link to a photo I imagine comes closer to the real thing. In some ways, it's actually more evocative ...and I think the photo is taken from the 'actual' silk road vantage point as well: https://thecoffeeclubtimes.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/chinese.jpg
     
  21. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Didn't know you were a New Scottie, @Sack-a-Doo! Halifax was first spot visited outside the US (middie cruise on USS Newport News, 1967). Flew in and out of nearby RCAF airfield (Somerset?) across the bay in 70s, and took two vacations up that way in 2009 and 2010 with wife. Lovely country, at least in summer! Remember once having to start our Herc in a hangar there in the winter though, because the tug couldn't tow it out on the ice.
     
  22. Sack-a-Doo!
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    My father was on the HMCS Skeena (helicopter-destroyer) around then, I think, stationed out of Halifax. I was just a snot-nosed country boy down the valley (Annapolis) at the time and knew nothing of city ways until I moved up there to live with Dad in '69.

    Greenwood, perhaps? That's the only airfield I know of in Nova Scotia (Annapolis Valley near the Bay of Fundy). If it was on the New Brunswick side, I'd have to look it up.
     
  23. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Shearwater, on the other side of Bedford Basin in Dartmouth. Google is wonderful. I think I went to Greenwood also. Also St John's, Newfoundland, and Goose Bay, Labrador, where I shot one of the last radio range approaches in the world @1973... the kind that goes "dit-dah" on one side of the beam, "dah-dit" on the other, and steady tone on path.
     
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  24. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Shearwater. Forgot about that one. To be honest, I didn't know it was an airbase. By the time I moved to Halifax in '69, they were in the midst of unifying all branches of the military, so that may have obscured things for me.

    Ever see any UFOs while flying (assuming you're allowed to talk about it)?
     
  25. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Allowed to. But no, not in flight. In 1965 there was an outbreak over the Midwest when I was in boot camp in Olathe KA. (really! It was reserve Naval Air station, and I was 17 and in the reserves at NAS Atlanta). The radio reported them all afternoon, starting in CO. After sunset there was something that looked like searchlights on the clouds, visible only while turning. But there were no clouds. Silvery gray disks, briefly flashing in turns, about five or six. Big tracking radar behind our barracks was going crazy. Only ones I ever saw, if it wasn't some sort of atmospheric phenomenon reflecting car headlights? But further west, they had been visible in the day.

    Pliny the Elder reported what appear to be UFOs in his "Natural Histories." Shield-shaped objects shedding sparks, moving at great speed, in his meteorological section, as well as rapidly ascending/descending stars and moving lights. Didn't seem to think they were that unusual. The word he used for shield was "clipeus," a round shield with raised center bob, used by marines, cavalry and gladiators, rather than the interlocking rectangular "scutum" used by the army. Looks like a 1950s saucer.
     
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