While walking to my neighborhood gym in the dark the other night, I crossed a bridge over a tiny creek that cuts through my backyard in the winter, a rush of freezing water, and dries up to non-existence in the summer months. I couldn’t see it, but I could hear the gurgle and it had an instantly relaxing effect on me. I love water–ocean waves, running rivers, calm lakes, farm ponds–and living near it is really important to me. This tiny little creek was actually one of the bonus points when I was house hunting this time last year (I can’t believed I’ve lived here an entire year already!) and touring the prospective condo and neighborhood. I was bitterly disappointed when summer, my favorite season, came round and there was nothing but a dried up creek bed left behind.
It got me thinking about people who really love those shows like House Hunters, and the actual act of house hunting, even if it’s just fantasy house hunting, like when you drive into a neighborhood and point out the houses you’d love to live in, pulling “that wraparound porch” and “that house” and relocating them from their currently less-than-ideal highway location to the more ideal beach front property in your mind. (Wait, what? You don’t do that? I thought everybody does…) Even if you don’t Frankenstein together your dream home in your daydreams, you might have a Pinterest account with boards dedicated to the patchwork image of your dream home, or dream kitchen, or dream backyard. (Pool and tea gardens, anyone?)
While walking past that creek, I thought about all the things I’d love to have cramped into a square mile radius of my home–waterfall hiking trails, beach, boardwalk, all my closest friends and relatives–and it popped into my mind how nice it would be if there was a river in my current WIP. Or, even better, the ocean. I love to swim and I love all the activities associated with pool days and creek days or beach days and I think writing scenes where my characters get to engage in those activities would be a lot of fun.
And I realized…why hadn’t I thought to put those kinds of setting features into my story before? I’m writing FICTION where I’m entitled to make up everything, limited only by my imagination! Why am I denying myself, denying my characters, the fun it is to have all my favorite things put together in one place?
You all might have figured out that you can put everything you could possibly want into your fiction, but I really struggle with the limitations of reality in my stories, even if they’re set in made-up places. Like, right now I’m writing a post-apocalyptic type story sort of in the outskirts of Philadelphia. I really wanted certain geographic features, but I kept denying myself that river I really wanted, because there’s no river there in real life.
Uh, hello! It’s a post-apocalyptic world! Not only that, it’s MY post-apocalyptic world! Anything I want could be there!
It’s disappointing to say that my imagination is actually a little limiting, sometimes, but I’m working on it!
I think one of the best examples of all the best stuff being in the same place (on a small scale) is Neverland, in Peter Pan. First of all, they’re on an island: Bonus Point #1. It’s also a warm, tropical island, with a Neverwood full of adventures and a lagoon: Bonus Point #2. The Lost Boys get to go down custom-made tree trunk entrances to their cozy Home Underground: Bonus Points #3 and #4, respectively. And the neighborhood? There are fairies, pirates, Indians, AND mermaids, bonus points x10000.
Do you let your characters live in your dream house? Are there any fictional settings that have you ready to pack your bags and move in?