John Gurney is a fiction writer who can write scenes about places he has never visited. In Part 1, John explained how he found the Museo Trotsky in Mexico City and used it as a scene in his novel.
I believe there are no ‘minor’ scenes. Fiction stands on the temporary suspension of disbelief. Provide an obvious mistake and you’ll jar readers to disbelief. Hint: agents are readers first. Assume readers will catch your shortcut.
Imagine yourself a sponge, soaking up every drop of knowledge. I snared my library’s Trotsky bio, dusty like a powdered sugar donut. Surely, I’m flagged in some sort of NSA-ideological database, but I do it all for you, the reader. Tempting government tracking even more, I found the improbable Museo Trotsky’s Wikipedia page. Wikipedia typically has links to other, more detailed sources. Most every organization hosts a website and Museo Trotsky is no exception. I perused every Trostky webpage, certainly killing whatever chance I had of securing a future Republican nomination.
I’m amazed how many people upload their vacations to YouTube; gee thanks, World’s Greatest Dad, for sharing your Speedo-adorned, pasty thighs. Aspirant author, skip those frolicking beach scenes and visualize your scene through YouTube. View pictures at Flickr.com and Yahoo!Images. YouTube clips may feature boring chatter amidst poor technical quality, but those shaky videos give you a serious advantage Shakespeare and Jules Verne lacked. Even if your story is set in a generalized “jungle”, you’d improve your particulars by searching on “Congo,” “Amazon” and “the morning after Thanksgiving at Wal-Mart.”
Put your secret love of cartography to use! GoogleEarth and Mapquest.com help. Mapquest tells you exactly how long a trip between, say, Fargo and Omaha takes. In some cases, Flickr and Yahoo!Images will even have pics of the highway stretches in between (cue corn jokes). My characters traverse Mexico City’s narrow and jammed Circuito Interior to the Museo, and in this case, one picture is worth a thousand car delay.
Maps and GoogleEarth also help you develop sensory details. Is your scene in a house next to a railway, an expressway, or a busy airport? Is the house bathed in light by the adjacent commercial strip? Should we expect a sea scent from the nearby ocean – or pungent swamp smell from the bayou in back? If there’s a mountain a few miles away, your character might notice it out a window.
Watch for John’s final guest blog entry later this week. John blogs at Everything2Laugh4.