Fictional places? Even as the letters pop up on the screen, I wonder: is a place ever fictional? Or if it's fictional, would it NOT be a place?
This kind of thinking, by the way, has probably kept me from achieving my full potential as a human bean.
But what I mean to write and think about today are those places that one figuratively goes when in the grip of a story.
Narnia, for instance, and Treasure Island, the Brooklyn in which Betty Smith's tree grew, King's Landing, or that idyllic Pennsylvania farm in Springfield that Mumsie loved so much.
As part of an ongoing project with my writing group (Hi writers!), we're working through some exercises from Bill Roorbach's Writing Life Stories.
Each of us in the group has lived a life or two; we all (except that one introvert! Hey!) hare off on tangents talking about our stories... So, as a way to harness this superpower in written rather than spoken word, enter Bill Roorback.
(If you haven't already read it, go curl up with Mr. Roorback's The Remedy for Love. You'll thank me for the recommendation.)
I chose my oldest hometown, in Pennsylvania. I lived there until around age 8, with that little fish pond behind Mrs. Smith's (no relation) house, the strawberry fields, Sayre's horse barn. As I sketched it out, I led the names of the horses from all those remembered stalls by their oily leather halters. The exact bouquet of hay, oats, and horse manure arose like the flavor of a Madeleine dunked in tea.
As did young married next-door neighbors Dick and Marleen (Donna?) Briese.
I don't know how to spell their name, but I vividly remember Dick carrying me home across the street in his arms in the suburban dark. I was perhaps 3, inconsolable with homesickness. I had black-and-red cowboy boots that I rarely removed and which clunked together with each stride across the dewy grass; I'd been meant to stay overnight as a trial run for them to have children of their own...
Anyway, maps. It was a productive half-hour exercise and fun. So my thoughts naturally turned to doing the same activity with the longer novel I am working on.
It's set in an imaginary world (or, to be factual, a more-than-usually-imaginary one), so I don't need worry if someone else lived between the Ayers' and the Briese's places.
But it's also a real brain-teaser, trying to figure out the climate zones, distances, and what natural resources encourage what kinds of countries.
If one character moves at goose-pace, how long will it take, and what countryside will she pass?
Who knew Social Studies would come into play this way?
Someone has ruminated on how to illustrate the scope of this new world. They've translated four-dimensional ideas into 2-d ones: a thread of ink to represent a raging river, a star instead of a sprawling metropolis, the little crenelations of a rocky shore.
Now, how to hustle my rag-tag band of heroes along to the end of their roads?