Sunday, January 14, 2007

Location is everything.

Ok, maybe when you’re buying a house location is a little more important than in a story, but the setting is still extremely important.

My husband just put down a book and refuses to read anymore because the author jacked up the location so badly. He wrote about a city near us and a specific location in that city and he couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. He created interstates that don’t exist. He described things that aren’t there. He even made mention of something that hasn’t been in existence for over 20 years as current.

One could say that if the story were stronger then the location inconsistencies would be a minor matter, but I digress.

So what’s an author to do? Stick to those locations that everyone knows and the name alone gives you the tone? NYC, Miami, San Francisco and others carry with them images that nearly every reader will share.

What if you want to do a story that takes place with Jaialdi festival in Boise, Idaho?
Jaialdi Fesitval

Unless you have the money to go out there, how can you get to know the area and give some sense of authenticity to your writing?

We have several tools at our fingertips. Home buying guides can give you a sense of local architecture, home prices, and even locations. Idaho real estate

Official city sites can give you a wealth of information too.

Check monster and a few other boards to see what jobs are open in Boise. That will give you an idea of what forms the base of their economy, the type of education that’s common and all sorts of things.

Don’t forget salary converters to give you perspective on salaries and cost of living.
Salary Converter

Now, we’re writers so we need to put some teeth into our stories. What’s the crime like in Boise? Crime wave stories in places like NYC or DC seem very common. Is murder even newsworthy in NYC anymore?

According to this site, property crimes are so rare in Boise that the cops keep a list by neighborhood and it’s a SHORT list.

Property Crime

That’s something to keep in mind.

Here’s a site that lists more information.

Murder would be a huge story in Boise. In 2004 there weren’t any. None.

Damn. Maybe I should move there. Looking at these statistics, Boise has hardly any crime.

Hmm…maybe a crime story would be too much of a stretch? We don’t want to compromise the willing suspension of disbelief too much.

Maybe sweet romance story would be more befitting Boise.

The net can also give you demographic information on the city of your choice.

Here’s the breakdown of one of the zip codes in Boise.

Gen info

Here’s some information on air quality and stuff.

Air and water quality, etc

Christ! How good do they have it in Boise!? Air quality and water quality are both excellent.

I have beaches around me that have been closed by the EPA. Maybe I really do need to think about moving. Sheesh!

You can even get information about religions in Boise.


Ok, so what do all these stats mean to writers? Well, you certainly don’t want to have a sexy festival attendee murdered by someone who wants revenge because they have some freaky disease from bad air quality.

Geez…what’s left to write about?

Plenty. Even in crime-free, excellent water quality places, people fall in love. Romance happens everywhere and with a few quick searches for pics around Boise I imagine love happens a lot there. It’s beautiful!

Job growth is at 36 percent. 36?!?! Geez… ya can’t even do the down on your luck looking for a job story. Dang, Boise has everything. I’m jealous.

This particular zip code as an avg income of 55k. So, these are middle-class people. Which means having a character who lines his closet with Versace would be very unusual.

So, according to this information our festival attendees would be well-educated, probably never knew anyone who knew anyone who was murdered, and middle class. Oh! 15 percent of this particular Boise zip code are LDS.

There’s the story.

Nice, sweet LDS young man goes to the festival and meets a man who makes him question what he thought he knew about himself. Just imagine the angst! This could be juicy!

On the other hand, who else wants to move to Boise now?

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