My dogs have come to the conclusion that they vacation at home and actually live with the breeder. Of course there they have a constant set of 6 Golden Retrievers who live plus the extra boarders who come and go. It’s like being an eight year old and living at the local play ground. At home they do get to swim nine months of the year, but they also spend a lot of time chewing on bones wishing I would stop typing. My younger Golden (age 2) has been known to more than once stand next to my laptop and tap her paw against the keyboard. I have yet to decide if it’s cute and a mimic of “mom” or if it really is a message to get out the tennis balls.
Talking about the dogs is really not my point of today. Rather it has been the thought of travel. We’ve discussed in prior postings how writing in different places influences all of our senses. After my month in Italy, I immediately repacked my bags (never even picked up the dogs) and in 10 days I have been in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and now Oklahoma City. And, I have come to the conclusion that we all are not the same. So, on the plane yesterday I tried to put my finger on what I meant by that. What are my thoughts on different, how? And, of course, what does that mean for my writing? If I wrote about someone from New Hampshire, how would you identify my character as belonging in that setting versus Oklahoma?
Of course there is language. That one is simple. Not easy to write it well without making a parody of the character, but simple to hear as you order lunch or ask for directions. The “y’all” can’t possibly be confused with the “yuup.” In Italy it has taken me a good number of years to get used to everything being repeated. “I’d like those tomatoes, please,” I say in decent Italian. “Those tomatoes?” in the response. “Yes, please, those,” as I point. “I will give you those tomatoes, okay?” There is a rhythm and a cadence that comes with each territory. But, as I said, the language differences are obvious.
One of the realizations I had sitting on that plane was that people actually look and act differently. In Italy I am often addressed in English before I have a chance to even open my mouth. In part that might be because of my blond hair, though I have come to the conclusion it is due to my clothes- particularly my shoes. Plus there is a certain way clothes are worn- the sweater draped over your shoulder, the wide belt cinched around your hips, the choices of colors, and the manner of walking that lets the watcher know that you are pretty certain you look darn good. Bra straps show, tops of breasts show, and pants are cut to show all they can.
In New Hampshire, it is much more casual. Yes, there are jeans in Italy-lots of them. But in New Hampshire they are cut fuller. Instead of the cashmere sweater a good solid jacket from LL Bean or NorthFace might be the choice. I usually feel a little overdressed when I spend time there. A lot can be said for the comfort and warmth that comes from flannel, polar fleece, wooly socks and sturdy shoes . Body types also are a bit different. Extra body weight might feel good with long winters and heavy coats. But, with that also comes a different stride than one sees in Italy.
Oklahoma City is yet another look. I’m still deciding what that is. I have seen very dressed women as well as some who could use a major make-over. What I have noticed is a head-held-high and look-you-in-the-eye mannerism. I have spent a large number of hours walking the city over the last two days watching for the comparisons. Workmen have smiled hello. People on the street step aside to let you pass. Eyes meet and they nod a greeting. There is a sense of self-confidence in their walk.
I am not attempting to make one place seem better than another. Rather, I am trying to pay attention to the small differences that give a person a place. When I write I try and have my characters seem to fit. It’s in these types of details I hope they seem more real to the reader.
Can you think of details such as these that might distinguish your town or state? How would you write about them so as I read I can see through your eyes?
Side Note: Folks, I’m traveling again tomorrow, connecting through two airports. I’ll log on as frequently as I can. And, I’ll stay on the blog into the evening to make up for time I lost. Okay, so send those descriptions- I can’t wait to read them!