Mapping Your Territory

Many writers are heavily influenced by their surroundings. Even if they don’t set a book in their own city or town, they’re likely to incorporate things they see or overhear, bits and pieces that can be transposed and repurposed according to their needs. When the town itself becomes the setting, such influences can be even more pronounced.

Some writers think they need to live somewhere exciting to mine their surroundings, but that simply isn’t the case. Even authors who are intimately acquainted with the largest, busiest cities on the planet turn to the less frequented corners of their space for fresh inspiration. Small towns can fascinate readers who live and work in high rises; farms and fields interest residents of concrete jungles. Every place has its own rhythms and pace, secrets to share or to hide away.

Author Geoff Nicholson is a Brit living in Hollywood, but his writing focuses less on the glamour and more on the city itself — the streets, the citizens, the interesting architecture. In the video below, he walks his neighborhood and observes, and those discoveries may or may not make their way into his work.

Try wandering your own town or neighborhood, or else drive somewhere nearby that’s less familiar and give it the same treatment. Don’t get too caught up in writing anything down while you wander. Maybe take a camera, or just use the one on your phone to take a few quick shots for visual cues you can refer to later on. But really look around. See with a writer’s eye. You never know what might come in handy.