Business owners tell us that the most important thing about your business is location, location, location. I have found it is just as important to a novel. After finishing my list of characters, I develop an outline of the chapters. From there I have to describe the location that each chapter takes place in. This is the scene.
Just because your story is fiction doesn’t mean your location has to be. However, if you use a real place do your homework. If a story is placed in a city, it should be at the time the novel is set in. For example, telling a story about prohibition era gangsters in today’s Chicago would lose a lot of its appeal. The city today is not the city that the gangsters used to run, and we all know it. Placing your story in the 1920s Chicago and magic seem to happen. The story now occurs in the time and place that gangster used to roam.
I do a lot of research on my location. I identify maps and histories of the location at the time my novel takes place. I locate where the action takes place, and the scenery at that location helps define the action. I make sure what I have described can take place in that area. I try to go to the location, if possible to help my understanding.
What if I want to create a place or even an entire world. That is a marvelous idea, but the basics still apply. Your world needs to have the basics to work. Locations must be developed so that they are believable and support the story. When I think of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other great stories I remember the people and the worlds created for the stories. I have never done this and don’t know how much work is involved. I can tell you that from what I have heard it takes a lot of time and effort. I recently attended a meeting where Jim and John Gaines described how to develop characters. The amount of work that it takes to develop characters is probably small compared to the locations that a writer would produce. One thing I took away from Jim and John is that if humans are involved physics as we know them must be adhered to. However, once you leave out humans or put them in suits, you can play with physics.
I hope that you will remember that just because your story is fiction doesn’t mean your location has to be, but if you use a real place do your homework.