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How To Write a Scene About a Place You Have Never Visited

Updated on January 7, 2015

From an Earlier Article

I mentioned in an article last week that writers construct scenes in stories and books through the use of research, imagination, and personal experience. I think writers, all too often, limit their scene descriptions to areas they have visited, not trusting in their imaginations. Let me give you a scene description from my latest novel, “Resurrecting Tobias”, based on a personal visit to New Orleans forty years ago.

“I could hear the streetcar trolley bell clanging in the distance as I began my first walk through the Quarter. Somewhere a trumpet was welcoming the new day. The smell of camellias mixed with the rich earth smell of the Mississippi River, and as the breeze picked up, I could also smell fishing boats, mended nets, black beans and the sweat of a city that rarely rested. Rear doors of delivery trucks clanged, reminding me of fourteen years of prison laid to rest, and women with honest-to-God parasols smiled shyly as they passed me.”

As I said, that short description was based solely on memory, but what about writing a scene for a place never visited? How does a writer go about that task?

Olympia, Washington, or Franklin, Indiana?
Olympia, Washington, or Franklin, Indiana?

Use the Tools at Your Disposal

For a little exercise to demonstrate my point, I’m going to write a scene description about a town I’ve never visited. I chose Franklin, Indiana, for this exercise.

What do I know about Franklin, Indiana? I’ve never been there, so this will be a difficult task, right?

Wrong!

I have the internet, so photos of Franklin are readily available to me. I have a writer’s imagination. I also have memories of other Midwest towns I have visited over the years. I almost guarantee that any Midwest town will have elm, oak and maple trees. I almost guarantee that any Midwest town will have some fast food joints, a diner where the locals congregate, a bowling alley, police station, courthouse and city park. I know that most of the downtown buildings will be constructed of brick, and I know somewhere nearby there will be a grange. These are constants in the Midwest of the United States, in some cases decaying memories of the good times long gone, but often just a way of life that is timeless and does not need to be modernized.

So I’m loaded with tools to use for this little writing exercise. Let me do a little research and then I’ll begin.

Downtown Franklin, Indiana
Downtown Franklin, Indiana | Source

Franklin, Indiana

Thanks to my good friends at Wikipedia, I know the following about Franklin, Indiana:

  • Population of 23,712 people
  • The city was incorporated in 1823
  • Franklin is the County Seat of Johnson County
  • It lies twenty miles south of Indianapolis and ninety miles north of Louisville, Kentucky
  • Canary Creek, Hurricane Creek and Young’s Creek flow through the city, and there is frequent flooding
  • Very little racial diversification, with 94.9% of inhabitants white
  • Hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters
  • Franklin College is located there
  • Toyota and Mitsubishi both have corporate offices there

Am I ready to write? I have photos of the town, some basic facts about it, memories of previous visits to the Midwest, and my imagination.

I’m ready if you are!

Johnson County Courthouse
Johnson County Courthouse | Source

The Scene

He stepped off the bus at the Greyhound Station and set his eyes, for the first time, upon Franklin, Indiana. He was a southern California boy, blond hair, blue eyes, and dimples to die for. He was raised with palm trees and the smell of the ocean, as comfortable surfing as walking, but nowhere in Franklin would he find the golden beaches of his past. This was farming country, and the golden beaches were replaced by green fields and amber waves of grain.

Hefting his backpack, he made his way down Jefferson Street, and was soon in the downtown section. Brick storefronts welcomed him, Rexhall Drugs and Ace Hardware, Clive’s Barber Shop and the Franklin Theater, sturdy buildings that had weathered tornadoes, some dating back to the Civil War. This was blue collar country, honed by hard times, and the air vibrated with the distant memories of wars survived, droughts endured, floods conquered and economic depressions overcome. In the distance stood the Johnson County Courthouse, a massive Victorian building that seemed asymmetrical to the rest of the town.

Men in bib overalls and John Deere caps, and big boned women with babies attached to their hips, all greeted him with a smile and a howdy. Elms and great oaks provided shade along the sidewalk on that blistering hot summer day. Pickup trucks caked with dust and loaded with hay and feed made their way slowly down the street, the drivers stopping occasionally to wave hello to friends and catch up on the latest scuttlebutt.

Finally he came to Ruby’s Diner and, since it was lunchtime, he decided to enter and fuel his body before looking for work. The doorbell clanged as he entered and he stepped aside as an elderly couple approached. He held the door for the old gentleman, who wore a VFW hat, and his wife with plump, rosy cheeks and a ready smile. They nodded their thanks and he then made his way to a booth and set his weary bones down. Almost instantly the waitress was beside him. Betty was her name, according to her nametag. She was in the upper range of forties, carrying twenty extra pounds but still a hint of the beauty she once was. Smiling a tired smile, she asked him what he needed.

“I’ll take a cheeseburger if you’ve got it, and a chocolate malt to wash it down.”

“Sugar, I’ve got that and so much more. What you see is not necessarily what you get, if you know what I mean.” She winked and was gone.

While he waited for his food he thought back to Malibu and the girl, and heartaches, he left behind.

Betty was back in ten with his food.

“You new in town, Sugar?”

“I am indeed, Betty. Looking for work. Do you have any suggestions?”

“I heard Toyota was hiring seasonal help. You might check with them. Go on down Jefferson about a mile and you’ll see their plant on the right. Farmers are always looking for an extra hand if you’re willing to work your ass off for minimum wage. The Grange is right across the road from Toyota, and you’ll find some local farmers who will be mighty glad to meet you. Where you from?”

“Malibu, California. I just got off the Greyhound. If I don’t find work here I’ll catch another bus and head down the road.”

“Well good luck to you, honey. You stop back here and let me know how the job search went. I work until six. Gotta go now, or I’d chat more. If Bob Eakins doesn’t get his steak soon he’ll be grumpier than a heifer in heat.” And with that she turned on her heels and went back to the kitchen, her hips swaying to a practiced rhythm.

And That’s All There Is to It

I timed myself. Forty-two minutes to do the research and write the scene.

How did I do?

The point of this exercise is to help you, as writers, to realize your only limitations are the ones you impose on yourselves. I challenge you to try this exercise. I’m quite certain that once you do it, new avenues will open up for you, and you’ll soon be writing like a well-travelled pro.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      You did great Bill here and definitely agree that we can very much use the internet for all the great resources it holds for stuff like this when we are writing. Thanks so much Bill for sharing with us and have a great day now, as always! ;)

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      Ah, great, Bill.

      You have this stuff running through your veins!

      I wonder how writers could write about places they had never been, before computers. I guess they would spend much time in libraries.

      We are the fortunate ones.

      Here is to computers, imagination and a teacher named Bill!!

      Thanks,

      DJ.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine. It's just not that hard with practice...just like most things in life, right? Have a great Hump Day!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, I think libraries played a huge part in it....that and the encyclopedia....oh how I loved those books...and I was a National Geographic junkie.

      Now my secret is out. LOL

      Thanks dear friend.

      bill

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      You did a great job of describing the scene, Bill. It was as if I was looking through the eyes of the Malibu transplant. I could feel the quaint friendliness of the town, hear the quiet bustle of the diner and smell the cheeseburger.

    • profile image

      dragonflycolor 2 years ago

      I love this. I've been working on scenes from Japan and have gotten stuck because the descriptions didn't "feel" right. Thanks for the tips, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Sha! I was hoping that's what the reader would feel. I appreciate it, dear friend. Happy Hump Day to you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mari, you are very welcome. Thanks for stopping by and for letting me win in Words. :)

    • beta5909 profile image

      beta5909 2 years ago

      Oh man this is great.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Thank goodness for the Internet! Although in years past, writers could maybe justify some travel expenses to "get inspiration?" Let's see, I think I need to write about Fiji (which sounds really good right now with it being 1 degree here this AM). Think that will fly on my tax return? Okay, seriously, good points about using the amazing tools we have available on our desktops. Voted up and useful of course!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, beta! I love writing fiction...I can pretend like I once did as a child. ;)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, I feel for you and that cold you are enduring. Stay warm and safe, and if you have a moment, why don't you book that flight to Fiji? LOL Thank you my hard-working and wise friend.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      You sure you haven't been there, bill? I was convinced, that's for certain!

      We have to use everything at our disposal and then some. The internet does make research much easier.

      As you say, if we don't try, we'll never get anywhere.

      Great reading for Wednesday evening. Off to book club later to read some poetry! No one has time to read anything longer over Christmas so we just gather, drink a glass of something, read a couple of poems and chat.

      Enjoy your evening, bill!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ann! The book club activity sounds like heaven to me...except for that glass of something would have to be non-alcoholic for this old boy. :) Have fun my friend.

      bill

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very cool. I think I like my imagination more than the reality so I probably am not too word about authenticity. -- I should work on that.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, you make it sound so easy. All of us have the internet for research, but it takes more than that. You have a special gift of being able to paint a picture with your words. The scenery feels real and (just as important) the people are real. I am ready for the next chapter. Maybe some day we will learn a bit more about Betty and the blue-eyed stranger from Malibu.

      Have a great day my friend. No writing for this old girl today. I'm going out to work in the garden--something I haven't done since October.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      There's plenty of choice, bill. You can enjoy a cool orange and mango or a ginger beer (not alcoholic). The essence is a relaxed evening amongst like-minded people. You'd be very welcome. See you later! :))

      Ann

    • Joyfulcrown profile image

      Joyfulcrown 2 years ago

      Bill that was absolutely brilliant! You are so talented. Thank you for the tips.

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      Jackie 2 years ago

      I am amazed at books I have read to find out the author only went by research! Another brilliant point! + Not signed in so can't share but voting up and across!

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      That is great, but what about a place that doesn't exist?

      It was apparently morning, I am guessing, but I am not sure. It feels like morning, a summertime morning. The kind where it is comfortable, and yet there are no sounds of life, no birds, no rustling of little creatures.

      I can't see the Sun directly, but I sense that it must there somewhere because there is a dawn like light getting stronger by the minute. It feels like I have awakened from a sound sleep, yet I don't remember when I was last awake.

      I have only been awake for several minutes and now I realize, I don't know where I am. Quickly looking around me, I see that I am in some area where there are many trees, and shrubbery, and none of it looks familiar. In just several minutes, the light has gotten brighter, and it continues to do so. I realize, that I was down of the ground when I woke up. I was dressed in a suit that I recognized as being one of my suits. I had on a crisp white tailored shirt, with a dark blue tie that had an imprinted pattern on it in black and maroon shades of color. I was wearing a classy looking black belt with a shiny brass buckle.

      Looking down at my feet, I saw a pair of black shoes. These were the shoes that I would wear when I was going out to some formal occasion. I searched the pockets of the suit jacket, and pants, as well as the shirt pocket.

      I thought for sure that I would find something in the pockets, but to my surprise, they were as clean as if I had just picked them up from the cleaners. Although, there was not cleaning ticket on any of the clothes.

      Where was my wallet, the black trifold one with all my credit cars, folding money, and driver's license. I didn't have my Citizen's Blue Angel wrist watch on my wrist. I would wear it on either wrist depending on what I was doing with my hands. The watch was only ornamental as I would use my phone for determine the time.

      I looked around in the immediate area for any signs of these items, but the ground was unusually baron in a thirty foot circle around me. This was strange as the trees and shrubs beyond it were in an apparent random pattern.

      Where was I, and how can I determine my location? I thought that if I knew where I was, it would give me a clue as to how I might haven't gotten here.

      The sky was a dull whitish illumination when I first woke up, but now it was a very soothing light blue, unbroken by any clouds or disturbances. Dawn had broken and it was up and on its way to morning. I must have unconsciously gotten up onto my feet, as now I realized that I was standing. The light was brightest from behind me, so I must be facing West, as I ruled out dusk because the light was getting brighter behind me.

      Which direction should I go first to see if there was anything familiar about the immediate area. My current visibility was limited by the trees that were surrounding me, and close as forty feet away. They gave no clue to what I would find beyond, that is if there was a point beyond them.

      I remembered a phrase from the past, that said "Go West Young Man", and that seemed as good as any choice that could be made under the circumstances. So that is what I did, I moved my feet a step at a time. Quickly at first, until I made it past the end of the circular clearing that I was in since I woke up.

      The ground cover past the clearing was rough, and filled with unmanicured growth. It made the journey out slow as I had to make sure of my footing and I didn't want to soil my shoes or pants.

      I walked through this forest like scenery just trying to head west until I was out of it. This required me navigating around clusters of trees, trees of various sizes, types, and age. Thee was no path to guide me through it. The ground was flat, but I had the feeling that I was going uphill, or it could have been that I was not a person that exercised regularly.

      After what seemed to be an hour since my journey started, I could see what looked like another clearing like the one that I had just left not too long ago.

      As I approached the clearing, I saw something that made me realize........

      If you want to find out more, then buy the book. Just joking.

      Now you know why I don't do fiction.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, in that case, I think fantasy is your calling. :) Some writers have made millions writing about imagination over reality.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, thank you for that. All those years of reading have paid off. :) Working in the garden sounds wonderful...maybe I'll get out there later this afternoon. Have fun!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Okay, Ann, it's a date. Late it is. :)

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Joyfulcrown, thank you for such kind words. I really appreciate it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Jackie. I doubt there are many writers left like Michener who travels to a site and lives there for months...now we just sit in our studio and use the internet for our travel guide.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Brad, you say you don't do fiction, but you just did a pretty good imitation of it. Honestly, I liked what you wrote. There was enough suspense to it that my attention was held. Polish it up, add to it, and call it a story. :) Thanks for sharing your hidden talent.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. It was a mystery to me as I created it without thinking. I don't read fiction so I am without a reference, so I guess. Sometimes I get lucky.

      Each step was created on the fly with no direction being chosen for what would happen next. When I stopped, I hadn't even thought of what was coming next.

      Anyway, it was fun.

      Thanks again.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brad, if it was fun, then it was a worthwhile writing exercise. It's called free-flow writing, and I practice it often. You did well.

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Shhh, Bill! If you make it look so easy everyone will do it. :)

      Great advise. Checking the weather in different seasons and the locations of things is a great idea. And with Google Earth and street view it's even easier to describe buildings and streets, no fiction necessary.

      I'm with Heidi; I wish we could justify travel expenses like that on our tax returns. Even I might try my hand at fiction if that were the case.

      Google. Wikipedia. I have a bone to pick with you two!

      I do have a serious question though.

      You mentioned that you practice free-flow writing often. You've mentioned in other articles that you form an outline for your novels. Do you find that when you begin to flesh in your novel and your writing starts to flow that your outline changes, or do you stay within the confines of your original line of thinking?

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I see that research is a key factor in writing. You are amazing! I liked the name of the diner. lol. The waitress was so familiar. I must have seen her sometime, someplace. Thank's again for helping us to be better writers.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Greatly written and thought of. Your message is always clear to me.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cristen, you raise a good question, and I'm going to use it in Monday's Mailbag, but quickly: I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I outline. I start with a basic idea and an introduction. I then ask the question "what if?" What would happen if this happened? I then determine how I want the story to end, and then I write a mini-biography of my characters. Once I know my characters well enough, I turn them loose to fill in about 200 pages. There really is no formal outline in my books. There is a general outline in my head, and I do mean general, but the majority of the book is "off the cuff." :)

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Kay Badder 2 years ago from USA

      Thank you for the good ideas.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, most of us have met that waitress during our lifetimes. That's what good fiction does...it connects with readers on a level they can relate to.

      Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear that, DDE! Thank you very much.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Barbara Kay. Thank you for the visit.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I could see, hear, and almost smell Franklin, Indiana, from your description, even without the photos of the courthouse and downtown street. Betty's dialogue helped set the tone, and your writing helped me visit the Midwest town of Franklin without leaving my chair. Excellent demonstration, Bill!

      Voted Up++

      Jaye

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 2 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks to the Internet we can enjoy a virtual experience of any unknown city/country so much easier and faster than writers before us. You have done a great job, describing Franklin, Indiana as if your were there in person. Congratulations!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This note is for Brad, and it's about your example of free-flowing writing. The scene you wrote suggested to me two premises for a story, and you could probably think of a few more. You really should use that scene and see what you can make of it. Don't let the creativity you put into it go to waste. Even though you think you don't "do" fiction, you'll never know until you try.

      Jaye

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      a very useful tool you just printed and published for us... I get my scenes from police logs and from cold cases.. but I can relate and use the internet to travel.. maybe my next piece will be used in this fashion maybe I can pull it off :) thanks for the Knowledge.. and keeping all of us in the know

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Just what did we do before the internet? This is a neat example of how to research and make a realistic scene. It may be more difficult 'moving' to another country, say me writing about New York or Washington. Possibly nail the location but the flow of characters speech may not be effective. I wonder how many 'top selling authors' have a researcher on staff. Thanks again Bill - your time is our gain. Cheers Maj

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Have a Prosperous New Year 2015 Bill.

      Looks like Brad's on the right track, although using the vernacular doesn't always work. Cutting down on the passive verbs helps the movement as well, not so much of the '-ing'; use more 'active' language that pushes the narrative and dialogue.

      The first location description reads like New Orleans. Is that right?

      I've used physical maps of areas I haven't been to. In my books I'm in the 11th Century, so the scenery was much more wooded with thatched wooden buildings, alehouses and inns dotted about. 'Cities' were usually only inhabited by thousands (even the population of London in the 11th Century wasn't more than about 1% of its current figure). They were smelly places at best, but busy by day. There were 'stews', districts beyond the law where harlots plied their trade and their customers could be anyone from noblemen down to ships' crews. One stew in London came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Southwark and he had a jail known as 'the Clink' for debtors.

      One thing that hasn't changed in the last millennium is crime and violence, although the nature has changed, and nobody uses stocks any more. Nor do we have Norman knights or barons claiming their rights to the bride on the wedding night, or the 'murdrum fine' imposed for killing them when we get fed up.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jaye. I've met enough waitresses in small towns, so that part was easy...and who hasn't visited a town like Franklin?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Martie. I appreciate you taking the time to read my little writing exercise.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I agree completely, Jaye, and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Frank, how interesting. I had no idea that's where you got your scenes. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Maj, you bring up a valid point, and there is no way I would write a scene that takes place in another country. I think that would be very, very difficult. Thanks for that point made.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Friend Bill, this has some really great information that may help me with the book I put aside five years ago because I didn't have time to research it. By the way, I've just completed an article that I haven't had time to publish related to something like this, so what a coincidence. Maybe I'll get to pushing that button soon. In the meantime, let me give you a little test. Do you see anything odd about this scenario about a woman on her way to pick up her kids at the movies? (Other than the fact that I did use brand names because that's what we do in the South unless it's a coke.)

      "Jennifer’s old car chugged along Central Avenue leaving a trail of smoke behind. The air conditioner was on its second summer of disrepair, having long ago leaked the last of the AutoZone freon. The windows were down, and the humid air was stifling in the 99 degree heat. She wiped her face with the last Kleenex and licked her dry lips in anticipation of the fresh pitcher of Kool-Aid awaiting her and the children at home.

      A long wail pierced the air through the open windows. Oh, no, she thought, I hoped I could get across the bridge and not get trapped by that darned train. She was approaching the bridge across the bayou that bisected the little Ozark Mountain town. Parallel to the bayou were the railroad tracks, and being trapped by a train for 10 to 20 minutes was everybody’s nightmare. It was the only bridge across the wide sandy stream 30 feet below."

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Wonderful advice and examples. You know, I just finished my first novel, and I thought over and over again about how much more difficult, if not impossible, it would have been for me to have done it w/o the internet!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alan, it's always good to hear from you, and your suggestion about active verbs is a good one and one I need to keep in mind constantly.

      Yes, the location was New Orleans.

      Quite frankly, I'm not sure I could do what you do, writing about locations centuries in the past, and you do it so well. I suspect my job is much easier than yours. :)

      Happy New Year once again, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, you may stump me on this one, and I suspect it's because I know next to nothing about that area.....but....are there bayous in the Ozark Mountains? Is that it? Please tell me I'm close?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rebecca, not impossible, but certainly much-more difficult. I have my problems with technology, but I absolutely love the internet. Thank you for stopping by.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      Note to Jaye Wisdom

      Please feel free to use the scene and post it as it would be interesting to see where it takes you.

      Alancaster149

      Looks like Brad's on the right track, although using the vernacular doesn't always work. Cutting down on the passive verbs helps the movement as well, not so much of the '-ing'; use more 'active' language that pushes the narrative and dialogue.

      I don't really know what that means, and if I had to write to the drum beat, it wouldn't be fun.

      billybuc

      I like the exercises, but writing a whole story, not so sure.

      Maybe as I continue reading your mailbag, I might go deeper into thinking about writing something larger.

      I look forward to some more challenging exercises. It could be like training for a mental marathon. lol

      Thanks

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I used to do more creative writing, but I've kind of gotten away from it for a couple of years. You inspire me to give it another go!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brad, my hunch is that there is a creative writer hiding inside of you. Hopefully I'll cut his chains and allow him to run free with a few more writing exercises. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I hope you do. I happen to think you are a very good writer, so who knows what is hidden inside of you waiting to break free? Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 2 years ago

      Well-done! You have a vivid imagination. wonderful exercise. I would love to visit Hawaii someday. I could try this exercise with travel. thank you for this useful information.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      Thanks, I am limbering up my typing fingers.

      Ready to go.

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      You are so creative, Bill! :-)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Doc, travel definitely makes this exercise easier. I hope you make it to Hawaii soon. I'll expect to see the results after your trip. :) Thank you for the visit.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm looking forward to it, Brad!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Abby! Now the next step is to actually make some money with all this creativity. :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've created a great composition, Bill. It really does sound realistic! Thanks for a very useful demonstration.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Awesome, Bill. You did it so well. All can't do so beautifully. Even if you have knowledge, putting it in words so beautiful and splendid, it is an art all can't possess.

      Thanks for this sharing of your knowledge.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Another great how-to lesson. Small as my island is, there are some sites I have not visited; I tell myself I have to visit. Just a self-imposed limitation, right? Thanks for this practical guide.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Yes, Bill, that was a trick question. I was playing "Gotcha" and you guessed right. There really are bayous in the Ozark Mountains, a strange but true phenomenon. We kids grew up swimming in them because they were much warmer than the rivers. The bit about the train was from personal experiences, too. In fact when I went into labor with my second child, I was immediately taken to the hospital and the doctor sarcastically quipped, "she was afraid she would be caught by a train." Today there is an overpass across that bayou in town, much to everyone's relief. So, I was just funnin' you, but you are too smart! Have a great day -- stay warm, it's 9 degrees here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alicia. I really appreciate your kind support.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Venkatachari M, I happen to agree with you. Not everyone can do this. Perhaps that is why writing is an art form. :) Thank you for your kind words, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, I had no idea there were bayous in the Ozarks. That's amazing. Thanks for sharing that, and I love that you used personal experiences to add to the flavor of your passage.

      Nine degrees there? Fifties here...almost spring-like.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Excellent article and nice little story. You really did give a sense of place. Did the guy ever find work? Did he hook up with the waitress?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Catherine, you'll just have to read the rest of the story to find out. :) I'm sure one day I'll post it.

      Thank you for being here and stay warm this chilly morning.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Well Bill, just like everyone else I was impressed and drawn in. You sure know how to flesh out a scene. This was a great example for those of us still learning. I may have to try this exercise and see where it takes me.

      Thanks so very much for your continual sharing and showing us the way.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I really do highly recommend trying this exercise. It does hone skills and really, it's quite fun.

      Stay warm my friend, and thank you!

    • jonmcclusk profile image

      Jonathan McCloskey 2 years ago from Cinnaminson, New Jersey

      Good advice, Bill. I often find myself wanting to write about places I've never been to and usually I pull up the old faithful Google and do a bit of research. Thanks for the tips and keep on keeping on.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      Gee whiz Bill, I couldn't write that kind of setting based on the fact you had for Franklin! What a great exercise in writing!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      You're very good at what you do, and I like specifically that you share how you go about your craft (e.g., resources) so that others can follow in your footsteps. Nicely done.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Glimmer, but I bet you could do it. Oftentimes it's just a matter of trying...many writers have it in them but they don't write fiction so they think they can't. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish. I don't know if I'm very good, but I do know I'm improving, and that's my goal daily.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      The same goes for historical fiction, as in, "Emperor Julius Caesar strolled along the Appian Way and stopped for a hamburger at Cleopatra's Dinerus."

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Brian. It's interesting how many writers are surprised to find that a writer never visited places he/she wrote about. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      A great hub showing how we can write about places that we have never visited and yes you are so right the only limitations are those that we pose on ourselves. I guess we have to break free and explore, Google is of great help.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vellur, with the internet, we have no excuses. I find it amazing what is a mouse click away. Thank you for stopping by.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great use of imagination.

      So did he get the job or not? What happened in Malibu that made him leave his life and try to start again? You're not going to leave me hanging, are you? ;)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, I think I'll let you write your own ending to this story. Imagination will have to carry you though....or maybe a year from now the story will continue. :) Thank you and Happy Work Week to you.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      That almost sounds like a challenge. I think this might be out of my comfort zone but I may just take you up on it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, it not only sounds like a challenge...it was a challenge. :) I hope you do it!

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      You were great describing that scene Bill! I could actually picture it all in my mind very clearly.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you vkwok. I really enjoy painting a scene like that. I'm glad you found it useful.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 2 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      This is interesting Billy directing imagination with research and facts..it's def something I have to practice more of as there are many places that I haven't yet got to that I want to include in my books..good to have your example, thanks..

      Cheers

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carter, thanks for stopping by. The world is our oyster now that we have the internet. :) Give it a try to let me know how it works for you.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Right. I've taken up your challenge and have sent you an email with the attached story. There, I did it. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it, Zulma. I'll check it out soon...as soon as I wake up fully. :) Thank you!

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      Good Morning

      I have been pondering my story since you explained the vernacular, and passive, active modes.

      Here is my ponder, in a scene where there is only a character, most likely the main character, there can't be more than two ways to describe what the character is thinking and seeing.

      So there is either a story narrative from outside the character, or it is the words of the character. Those words would have to be native to the character, while a narrative can strike any tone.

      In my scene was there a better approach for the reader to follow the character?

      Fiction Tenderfoot

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brad, good morning. What you say is absolutely true. We either write in third person (outside the character) or we write in first person, in the words of the character. There is a third option, second person, but you rarely see it in fiction.

      There was nothing wrong with your approach. Actually, using passive voice occasionally is acceptable. At times it helps with the flow of the story...the rhythm of the writing....so don't worry too much more about it. As a general rule, subject before verb...but occasionally straying from that is fine.

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 2 years ago from USA

      Very helpful information here. Good point about pictures on the internet. I guess you could also go onto Google Streetview and have a look around whatever place you want to write about as well.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You could for sure, Eric. We have so many tools at our disposal. All we have to do is use them. :) Thanks for the visit.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      Thanks for the quick answer.

      I guess my mind doesn't think subject then verb?

      Maybe, I will try to rewrite my scene with foot before walk. lol

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brad, it's interesting because a lot of writers think the same way. If I had to name my biggest problem in writing, it would be active vs passive. My mind just doesn't go that way.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I loved this article, Bill. How do we write about a place without actually “being there”? I think we all face this challenge at one time or another, since we are often advised to “write what you know.” So how do these two scenarios equate? It begins with research…our best friend -- and nemesis. Well, at least it’s my nemesis at times. :-) You have described this art and skill, perfectly. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Genna. It is not easy, and perhaps that's why i love the challenge of it. If it were easy then everyone could do it, and then writing wouldn't be an art form. :)

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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great work, and fabulous ideas, as always. I for one, happen to be drawn to the area that I grew up in, which is the most comfortable for me. This gives me cause to open my mind and perhaps even my heart, just a tad.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, I think that's fairly normal for fiction writers to write about their hometown....much easier, and it lends a feeling of authenticity to the writing.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 7 months ago from Texas

      I guess I didn't see this when you published it. I grew up in central IL not too far from the IN border. The waitress dialogue made me giggle a little, but only because that sounds like more of a southern thing. . . calling people sugar and honey, that is. Maybe I've been in TX too long. This time of year is a good time for the Midwest, I think. Seems like there's never much of a fall down here.

      Good advice. It's amazing what worlds the internet can open, along with a little imagination.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All true once again, Shannon, and good morning to you. I think "sugar" is pretty universal now. I got called that in a cafe here in Olympia recently, so anything is possible. :)

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 7 months ago from Texas

      Haha. Probably so. You know, when I moved to TX I learned that sugar also refers to kisses. Give me some sugar. LOL. Usually, you hear parents tell that to their children or grandchildren.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Now that's odd, Shannon, because I've never heard it in reference to kisses.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 7 months ago from Texas

      Gotta love colloquialisms! I had never heard that before either. Then again. . .I never said "fixin' to" instead of "gonna" or "going to" before I lived here long enough.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shannon, you are a stronger spirit than I am. I'm afraid I couldn't live in Texas, for a number of reasons.

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