Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making your home town sound exotic

by Annalisa Crawford
A long, long time ago, I wrote short stories - practically flash fiction before the term had been properly coined. (I am so ahead of my time!) Because they were short, I never had to worry about settings or places... I told the story and left the reader agog (well, my ego tells me I did).

Much later, I read a book set in New Orleans. The description of the city was lush and tangible, it oozed from the page and wrapped itself around me. And I thought how lucky the author was to have such wonderfully exotic surroundings to inspire him. I wish I had that, I thought.

But, wait a minute! I bet, if you're late for work, and you've been up all night with a sick pet or screaming child, and you've run out of milk for your first coffee, that great city doesn't feel quite as exotic.

I read the book again (as I often do), and actually had the same thought process again, only this time I wondered whether any city or town could sound exotic to someone who had never been there. Could my town sound exotic?

The pub from Our Beautiful Child
 was built in 1595
At the time I was playing around with a story that would be included in my collection Our Beautiful Child, although I didn't know it yet. I made a couple of subtle changes and lo! My story was now set firmly in my home town. I used my old local pub as the backdrop,

The river opposite was perfect for my needs; the bridge further along was again ideal as the bridge where several tragic things happen.

But once I started writing the other two stories in the collection, I realised I needed things that simply don't exist in my town - like a town square and a large imposing hotel on a hill. So, slowly, I started to move things around, and borrow a couple of things from other local towns (it's okay, I put them back later).

And I omitted the largest claim to fame that we have... Brunel's final masterpiece...

The Royal Albert Bridge
I've got the bug now, though. My - hopefully - next-to-be-published book is set in the neighbouring city, and this time I've kept all the things I love about it. There's a lighthouse and a 'wedding cake', a concrete beach and the most amazing view in the world. I'm determined to make my home town and city sound just as amazing as New Orleans!

How to make your town sound exotic:
  • focus on the tiny details, such as the sounds you can hear. I never realised how half the town can hear the trains, the other half can hear the dual carriageway, and everyone can hear the fog horns from the boats on the river.
  • check out the history of your town. You might be able to use it to make your prose richer or use an historic building as a backdrop.
  • see your town as a new visitor would. Take a long walk, and take out-of-context photos, look closely at the engravings on older buildings. Note the dates on houses and try to envision what your town would have looked like ten/twenty/a hundred years ago.
  • share the quirky or unique things about your town. We have a guy who dresses up as Sir Francis Drake and wanders the streets with his wife (dressed as Drake's wife). He has subsequently become our town cryer. We also have a life sized, talking model of Ann Glanville, a local gig rower who became a Victorian celebrity.
Me and Ann

About Annalisa Crawford

Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat.

Crawford writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories, with a hint of the paranormal. She has been winning competitions and publishing short stories in small press journals for many years, and published her first book, Cat and The Dreamer in 2012.

Find Annalisa here:

Posted by Maggie Tideswell, paranormal romance author of Dark Moon and Moragh, Holly's Ghost. Both books are available in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Amazon here:

Also available from Barnes & Noble, kalahari.net and many other fine stores.