I’m There, But I’m Not

I was apartment hunting in Mobile, Alabama the other day. I was looking for a place with a pool, and a dishwasher, that was built before 1990. I also needed it to be near downtown, close enough to walk to. I spent a good hour or so online looking for just the right place, for my character, from my laptop, in Phoenix. I needed this information for three sentences. THREE! AND…I WASN’T EVEN USING THE REAL NAME OF THE APARTMENT IN MY STORY!

I know a lot of authors put a good deal of research into their stories, whether they travel to the location, live in or once lived in the location, or do heavy-handed research. I once tracked down a prior teacher of a one room school-house in Washington. The school-house sat on a corner street out in the country where I lived. I drove past it every day on the way to work and was thinking of using as the setting for a book. I contacted the historic society, got in touch with the retired teacher, and played twenty questions over the phone. I still have pictures of the boarded up building and notes from my conversation to use someday. Yet, even if I don’t write the story, the research was a lot of fun.

Of course, in most cases very few readers will notice or even care if the story they are reading is in any way researched, unless it’s a non-fiction book. As a writer I feel the story is better, even if just for my sake, when things are as real as possible when it comes to location. If I can’t feel what it is like to be there, then how can I give that to my readers.



  1. I totally agree with your emphasis on on-site research—whether in person, via the internet, movies, etc! It really does authenticate one’s work. And besides, as you say—it’s fun.

  2. I am always interested in location whether I’m reading or watching a show. Good for you, taking the time to research what you’re writing about.

  3. I think researching locations, etc. for a story gives it an authenticity it wouldn’t have otherwise. As an author you can sit back and say you gave the best facts in your fiction book. 🙂

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