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.