Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Online Resources for Writers: An Example

I'm adding a new scene to the novel, and I decided I wanted it to be somewhere on the eastern seaboard, eventually settling (rather randomly) on the Carolinas. Since my vampires need fairly sizable populations to sustain them while they're young, I had been thinking Charleston. However, a young vampire would be too weak to hold territory in a bigger city, so I needed a suburb.

A Google search for "charleston sc suburbs" netted (ha, pun!) me an article that mentioned Huntersville, NC as one of the fastest-growing and most affordable suburbs to live in. A local real estate website showed that yes, the kind of house I wanted to describe did exist there, and furthermore, the real estate site also listed what year the houses were built. This was very important as my story takes place in 1999. The first subdivision I looked at had houses built in 2006. About 15 minutes of looking at listings got me a subdivision built in 1996.

Then it was on to Google Maps! God, I love street view. I wanted something out of Patio Man and the Sprawl People, and this place fit the bill. Perfect.

Now, since my story takes place on a specific day, it was off to Weather Underground. The archives for Huntersville only go back to 2001, but nearby Charlotte, NC goes back to 1941. So picking the date I needed in the History & Almanac section showed me what time sunrise was (very important) as well as hourly temperature, wind speed, and weather condition information. While that may seem a bit obsessive, it's great for describing what it's like for my characters as they stand outside on this quintessentially suburban street. (The weather is really the only thing that distinguishes one suburb from another...)

And there you are. A little bit of time on the web and I have all the resources I need to recreate in writing a real place I've never been to.

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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