“Freeze this moment a little bit longer. Make each impression a little bit stronger.” ~ Rush
I love traveling and any place I visit is open game as a story setting. The tricky part is holding onto the details that once positioned into your story bring it to life for readers. Studies show that when you read sensory detail, the same part of your brain fires as though you are actually experiencing it. I think good writers have known this intuitively since storytelling began.
I use photos to jog my memory of the smells, sounds and feelings that add realism to my settings and characters. This first photo was taken from Notre Dame in Paris. In case you’re wondering, the buses and trailers belonged to the production crew for the TV series Highlander. Looking at this, I remember how incredibly cold it was. The wind blew along the river seeping through my coat and several layers of sweaters. The water smelled moins de frais as it swelled along the wall. I’m not sure if I realized at the time I would have a protagonist nearly drown in those waters, but I do recall wondering how long it would take to get hypothermia. Mystery writers just think that way.
The images and memories formed the basis for the setting of WIRED which begins and ends in Paris. I mentally returned to this location as I wrote the final scene which takes place on the bridge in the distance. Darker scenes descended into the catacombs and introduces another side of Paris usually not mentioned in the tour guides. For those locations, an article about a French police unit that patrols the underground provided the imagery.
The second photo is a church yard in England, but my memory is faulty on the exact location. I’m thinking it may be in Suffolk. I do recall the church was well over 1,000 years old and was marred by medieval graffiti on the ancient floor tiles. This will be in Enigma, the follow-up to WIRED.
These days I snap photos constantly with my phone. Many museums allow photos sans flash, although they don’t like when I take snaps of the security layout. My star character is an art thief and security expert; I’m only fictionally casing the art.
Photos freeze the moment long enough to share it with my characters. Build your setting and mood as an immersive experience that allows your readers to escape into the story.