Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Using Your Hometown to Set the Mood

Join me in welcoming Ann Ambrosio who shares her love for setting as character in writing.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Terry. The location of your story can set the mood and I like to “feel” the place before I write about it. I grew up in the Saratoga Springs, New York area and naturally place much emotion there; that’s why I like to have Saratoga as a setting for a story. I’d like to tell you a little about Saratoga Springs.

Saratoga has a long, rich history. It’s where an important battle took place during the Revolutionary War and where the British General Burgoyne surrendered. Perhaps that’s why I feel a freedom loving spirit in that area. It was first settled in 1776, and it was incorporated in 1819 as a town. It’s now a city of about 26,000 residents and the population swells in the summer with visitors.

During the Revolutionary War Native Americans brought a wounded British soldier to a spring in Saratoga to bathe his wounds. They felt the waters had medicinal properties. Interest in the springs spread through America and Europe.

In the 19th century, spas sprang up and Saratoga became a playground for the famous and wealthy from all over the world to party and gamble in the summertime. Big, beautiful hotels were built. The Grand Union Hotel, on Saratoga’s main street, was the largest hotel in the world at the time. Casino gambling was popular as well as the famous Saratoga Racetrack. In winter, people could be seen covered with blankets, sitting in large rocking chairs on the porches of Saratoga’s large hotels, absorbing the rays of the sun.

The Adirondack Northway, an extension of the New York Thruway, was completed in the 1960’s, making Saratoga easy to reach from the New York City area. It is also on a direct route to reach the Adirondacks and many people visit both during summer vacations or winter fun. It has become a popular place for the arts as well as for the mineral waters and baths. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center, or SPAC, was built and became a summer home for the New York City ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Skidmore College, in the city, emphasizes the arts and has summer arts programs including writing.

In recent years filmmaking has become popular in Saratoga and parts of movies, including The Horse Whisperer, The Way We Were and Ghost Story were filmed in and around Saratoga. Much credit is given to Mrs. MaryLou Whitney of Whitney and Vanderbilt fame for keeping the city popular and vibrant. She has worked very hard and given much time and money to keeping the spirit of Saratoga alive.

Although all the famous, big hotels are gone now, there are still some large, beautiful Victorian homes in the city that were owned by famous people. A state park holds many of the effervescent springs, and the “Spouter” geyser. Museums, the arts, the racetrack and history as well as the rolling hills and fresh air make Saratoga great place to visit, as well as a colorful setting for a story.

Wherever you set your story, try to "feel" the place with your senses and set the mood for the reader. It's probably easiest to write about a place that is deep in your memory so you can bring out these memories for he reader to enjoy. It might be a sunny beach or a spooky old Victorian house. If you feel it, so will the reader.

For more about Ann, you can visit her blog at http://annambrosio.blogspot.com


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great point, Ann. When we're really familiar with a place and when we're a part of it, it helps to bring our story setting alive!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Debra St. John said...

Thanks for the post, Ann. I do like to use places I've actually been for the settings of my books. It helps to make the details more authentic.

Annabelle Ambrosio said...

Thanks for the comments. I agree it's best to know the place you write about. You can "feel" it.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Saratoga Springs sounds like a lovely place to set stories. Yes I set mine in places I know. Good point about the emotions, I hadn't thought of that.

Lyn said...

Excellent post, Ann. Got me started thinking.

Annabelle Ambrosio said...

I'm glad you liked the post. Yes, Saratoga Springs is a great place. Hope you all get an opportunity to go there sometime.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I find it hard to use a place I've lived as the setting for a novel. Too much baggage, I guess. Visiting a town or region for a short time, however, is easier -- there's plenty of room for my imagination to roam free without the burden of too many real life memories.

Annabelle Ambrosio said...

Whatever you find most satisfying to you is sure to be good. I find places give me certain "feelings". It's a sensitive thing with me, but I find it difficult to think of writing about a place I have never lived or been in for a time.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post - sounds like a great place to visit - or live :)

Annabelle Ambrosio said...

It is a great place, Jemi. Hope you do visit it sometime.
Ann Ambrosio

Mason Canyon said...

Interesting post. I agree with Jemi, sounds like a great place to visit or live.

Thoughts in Progress

Annabelle Ambrosio said...

Yes. And as I look back, it was a good place to grow up. Thanks for reading it.