Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Right Place

Today my guest is Becky Martinez , a former broadcast journalist who writes romance and romantic suspense under the name Rebecca Grace. Her latest from The Wild Rose Press is Deadly Messages. She’s working on the second part of the series, and that sent her to the Northwest to research and “soak in the ambience” in finding just the right place.

While I’m a big believer in having the right characters for a story and work like crazy to make them real and believable, I also have a big weakness for getting the right setting in my work. To me a genuine setting can make all the difference in whether a story comes across as real or false and I’m always on the look out to find a great setting. It can be anywhere—a great house, a majestic sunrise.

I always love mystery novels where setting is part of the plot, whether the hero or heroine is either hanging out in seedy bars or visiting the realms of the rich and famous. I also enjoy romances where I visit palatial dwellings or sinister mansions on the edge of a cliff. I look for stories to not only keep me entertained but to take me away on a fanciful journey.

That idea comes into play as I write. I’ve always felt that writers have a special set of senses that allows them (or makes them) see things in a different way. It goes beyond the visceral. It is like drinking in the feel for any place or situation and thinking about how you might write about it in a story. It involves using all the senses, hearing the tempo of conversations around you, smelling the various scents, looking for different views.

My family teases me because when we go to a new place I’ll suddenly get quiet and they know I’m doing what I call “soaking in the ambience.” I’m listening for the little sounds, like waves lapping at a pier or the cry of gulls flying overhead. Traveling in the mountains I’ll slow down to watch the sun gleaming on a mountain. To me this is all valuable research to be used later.

My first published romance, Love on Deck, was set at a baseball spring training camp. On my first trip to a major league spring training camp I was able to go onto the field as a TV field producer and it was an experience I’ll never forget. As I stood at the batting cage watching the familiar names take their swings, I was drinking it all in—the feel of the warm spring sun on my skin, the crisp crack of the bat on the ball, the gentle teasing among the ballplayers and reporters watching at the cage. A few years later those memories of that day came pouring out of me as I wrote my book.

My most recent romantic suspense, Deadly Messages, was set in the Northwest and that is one of my favorite places. I lived there for several years and still go back whenever I can. I’ve had several people who live in the Northwest or have lived there tell me how much they enjoyed the book because of its authentic feel and description.

Deadly Messages opens in Stanley Park because that is where I first got the idea for the initial premise. My sister and I were walking around the sea wall and my feet got tired. Near a narrow point in the park, she set out to go around the perimeter while I crossed a stretch of lawn to rest my feet and we planned on meeting at an agreed location. I set off across the grass and sat on a bench enjoying the view of the city while I waited for her.

As I was sitting there I began thinking, what if she doesn’t show up? I’d always been intrigued by the dense surroundings in the park even though it is in the middle of the cosmopolitan city. I’d always felt it was a perfect place to stash a body. Of course she showed up, but in the meantime, I had the setting for beginning my romantic suspense.

Every time I travel, I try to get the most out of my trip, not just enjoying each day, but soaking in the ambience of each locale. I sharpen my senses to drink it all in, and I always urge writers to do the same if you don’t already. Give it a try next time you go to your neighborhood coffee shop or when you’re on vacation or anyplace. Take a few minutes to use all your senses to soak up the ambience. You never know when you might want to use it later.

Visit Becky’s website at www.rebeccagrace.com or contact Becky at goldbooks2@aol.com. She will be teaching a class with Sue Viders in January on “Archetypes vs Stereotypes” for NEORWA. To register visit www.neorwa.com.


Cleo Coyle said...

Becky - Wonderful post, and I couldn't agree more. Setting can be a powerful element in fiction. Love your observation: "I’d always felt it was a perfect place to stash a body." Cheers!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Becky, this is an excellent post. I love novels where the setting almost feels like one of the characters.

Becky M said...

Thanks, Cleo. I always think that the more senses the author can evoke, the more you bring the reader into the story.

Becky M said...

Thanks. I know just what you mean. To me, setting and characters usually go together.