I’ve written a complete first draft of a story set in a small town. I used my imagination, and a healthy dose of Google map to figure out the logistics. And then I decided to visit. What a weird trip.
It’s kind of like having many email conversations with a person, and then meeting that person. Or speaking with someone on a phone several times before meeting him or her. It’s just weird.
It was weird, first of all, because when I arrived here, I knew where many things were already. Why? I’d been studying the map for 6 months. Though I didn’t actually know the place, I had this premonitory sixth sense about where things were. I knew instantly that the taxi driver took me the long way into town (Just after he asked me if I’ve ever been there before, which I hadn’t). I muddled through a strange landscape to find things I’d written about and felt like I knew. Strange, to know a place you’ve never visited.
For example, this is a picture looking North on 10th Street. I know before I hit that house on the end, I’ve got to turn left, and then two streets later, turn right. It’s a bit strange to know this in advance. But there you go.
Second, it was wrong in many respects. Some of the things I’d imagined don’t exist, or don’t exist the way I expected they might. Like the spruce trees. I imagined a full on forest-style spruce, based on my forest experiences. But, what did I find?
The spruce trees are scrawny. It is a sub-arctic climate here, and that North wind must be frigid. The north sides of many of the trees on the forest edge were bare of branches. The trees are much shorter than I imagined, too. I’ll have to adjust the story a little, after seeing this.
Then, some odd things add to my imaginations. Like the streets where my main protagonist and antagonist live. I walked both places looking for the houses they lived in. I walked Winters Crescent, for example, for the house my protagonist lives in at the beginning of the story. I came around the corner, to the place where I’d imagined he’d lived and I find this house:
This house is perfect. It’s perfect. I hadn’t fleshed out the exact look of it mentally, but when I saw this place, it finished my imagination completely. Odd fact: It’s in the exact location where I had planned it to be. Google doesn’t have a street view here so there’s no way to know what would have been there ahead of time. Second odd fact: the house number is 13.
I had a similar experience for the house of my main antagonist. Picked the location randomly. Here’s where she lives:
I’ve seen a good deal that will help finish the story well. It’s been worth the visit. It’s not at all like I imagined, yet somehow some of its better, and I arrived as a stranger, with that odd feeling that I’d been there before, if only virtually. This is my experience when imagination meets reality.