Using Oregon in Mysteries
By Linda Kuhlmann
Linda Kuhlman, check her website.
The old adage ‘Write what you know’ is good advice, but another is just as important: ‘Write where you live.”
Descriptions used in your writing will be much richer if you are physically in the area you are writing about. Traveling to an area to write about is one way, but actually living there for some time gives you a much deeper sense of the location and native people. Using all your senses create more visual characteristics that bring your story to life.
Also, the history of the area adds a deeper dimension. Readers love to read about their hometowns and surrounding areas. They also love to learn about its past that they may not be aware of. So, your research in that area is very important. This history can lead to some hidden mystery that piques your readers’ interests. Newspaper articles in your hometown or surrounding areas can spark an idea for a possible mystery.
My first two novels take place in Oregon. I grew up in Illinois, but moved to Oregon thirty years ago. It has been my home ever since. Since I migrated here, I bring my characters to various areas in the state that I have grown to love – the Willamette Valley, Portland, Columbia Gorge, even Dufur! Generally, I don’t change the names of the locations. Sometimes, I may use actual businesses and people, altering their names for my fiction.
Now, to step away from the adages for a moment, I do tend to write about other places and activities I’ve experienced during my travels. I also live vicariously through my characters in various careers, such as flying an airplane, living on a horse ranch in the foothills of Mt. Hood, riding a Thoroughbred racehorse at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Yet, I feel it’s important to make your writing as creditable as possible. Therefore, I research and interview experts in the various field, even if I’m writing fiction. After my interviews, I ask my experts to check my pages relating to their subject to make sure I understood correctly.
For example, if you’re writing about flying a P51 Mustang and you’re describing the take off procedures, a pilot reading your book will know if you’ve done your research. If not, he or she will stop reading.
To place your readers in the scenes you write about, become an observer. Write what you see, hear, smell in the little neighborhood café you want to include in your story. Also, write down descriptions of the people there, their clothes, mannerisms, what they order. Just make sure you use caution to change names and some features so people don’t necessarily recognize themselves in your work. Mix things up, like changing a tall blonde woman to a shorter brunette.
I’m sure your part of the world has so many wonderful venues for your writing. When I’m thinking of a murder mystery in Oregon, there is Portland’s Pearl District, Crown Point in the Columbia Gorge, Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, the French Glen Hotel near Steens Mountain, Gold Beach, Crater Lake…the list is endless. So, ‘write where you live,’ or at least where you’ve been in your life. Your writing will come alive!