|Boy Mailing Letters, 1880|
Courtesy of the National Postal Museum
via Flickr Commons
This week I was going to write about some unusual neighborhoods for my series Teen Life Way Back When: Where Did Teens Live? That got me to thinking – why do we write about certain places and not others? What fascinates or attracts us so much that we want to write about it? We’re told ad nauseam when we first start out that we should write about what we know. Nonsense. Science fiction writers don’t know what the future world looks like, yet, out of their imagination and creativity, they construct a whole new world for us to enjoy. I didn’t live in the nineteenth century yet I revel in all things 1800’s. In fact, everybody who did live then is now long gone. Oh, some buildings remain and lots of literature and artifacts, but there is no one I can talk to who actually lived it. So in my own way, I must create a world that is believable and tangible to my readers. Those that write contemporary fiction still must show us our familiar world through a new set of eyes.
Why does one writer choose a future world, another the past, and some the present? I can only speak for myself. I think much of what we do is rooted in our childhood. If I really think about it, my fascination with the nineteenth century and the settling of the Great Plains came from reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. Orphanages seem to crop up in my books, unbidden and without conscious thought. Why? I lived across the street from an orphanage when I was growing up. Could I write about the Regency period? Yes. Could I write about a future world where everyone is turned into robots? Yes. Do I want to? No. Because that’s not what rings my bell. What are the places that fascinate and intrigue you? Are you writing about them?