Bringing a Story to Life – Location

orig_2bae763a-758e-48c4-8bcb-9215cc36b007Something like 80 percent of business decisions have a location element.  In fact, it’s probably higher than that.  – Jack Dangermond


The Setting.  When a movie studio decides to film a movie, one of the very first actions is to send out a team or expert to scout out a location to shoot the movie.  A variety of factors play into the choices but basically, you want the setting to reflect the story in order to bring it to life.

Make it real for the audience.

It isn’t all that different with novels.

Metatron’s Army is classified as a sci-fi.  All this means is the story takes place in a setting readers associate with science fiction (i.e. planet(s) other than earth, parallel universes, advanced knowledge, technology and weaponry).

The Scene.  Setting (Sci-Fi versus Medieval Europe versus Roman Empire, etc) is only one aspect of the location considerations that go into bringing a story to life.

  • Where does the story take place?

 City?  Country? A school?  If so – high school?  University? Special academy?

  • What locations within the story play a significant role?

The character’s home?  Their place of employment?  Their neighborhood?  The neighborhood they dream of?

The Real.  I’ve been fortunate to have lived and worked around the US and traveled to other countries.  This enables me to add locations to stories that I’ve not only visited, but have an understanding of.

Sometimes this understanding comes as an observer, sometimes as a local whose interacted with the places and the people in them.

I’m able to add real cultural quirks or unique characters, and/or buildings, and/or businesses into a fictional story.

Making it more realistic than it would otherwise be.

The Story.  Metatron’s Army truly began to take shape my sophomore year in high school, after a life-changing moment in my geometry class,**

This is where the plot – multiple universes and how they are constructed – was born.

For weeks after the event I researched*** theoretical physics, and the role of geometry and math in the construct of our universe.

What we thought we knew of it at any rate.

As the plot for Metatron’s Army unfolded, I was faced with location choices.  I needed to know where my characters would live and spend their time.

The Purpose.  One of the earliest location decisions was for a warehouse bar that would serve a dual purpose.

  • Relaxation
  • Information gathering

Once I had the location, I was able to visualize the type of people – and creatures – who would frequent the place.

Mercenaries and spies!

I also needed to understand just what went on in the bar.

Dancing?  Eating AND drinking?  Gambling? Fighting?

Then I needed to fill in the details.

  • Where was the bar?
  • What did the bar look like?

The answers to those questions involve amusing anecdotes.

Where was the bar?  I decided the bar would be located in the warehouse district of a major city on an as yet unnamed planet.  But, what city?  In a daydream state, I picked up a cast metal pencil sharpener globe from my dresser and began spinning it.  My eye fell on a name, Perm.  I frowned because I knew that there was no such place on the continent where it appeared.  Rolling my eyes, I realized the manufacturer had misprinted Perth.

The warehouse bar is in the warehouse district in Perm, located on the planet Catana.

What did the bar look like? When I was in my mid-20s, I went on a corporate junket to Toronto.  A small group of us wanted to go dancing, so we asked a local for a recommendation.  At first, she eyed us with amusement, and told us about a touristy bar at the hotel.  Fortunately, one of the guys at the table reset her stereotyped expectations, and she gave us directions to an after-hours bar in their warehouse district.

After taking the subway, which was eerily empty since it was well past rush hour, we walked to a nondescript building with a neon sign and enough human traffic to let us know we’d found the place.

I wish I could go back and find that waitress to thank her for the suggestion.  This fascinating place, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen, is the inspiration for the warehouse bar in my series.

It was a perfectly benign establishment, a multi-story warehouse with multiple bars serving drinks, a large area for dancing, music that pulsed through your blood and vibrated your bones, and lots of people enjoying themselves dancing and talking.

The Details.  While my colleagues talked about a variety of topics, I scoped the place out, taking in every detail.  I watched in curiosity as people danced in what appeared to be cages on an upper level.

I remember wondering how they got up there since it wasn’t too obvious.  The place was dark and I didn’t see any doors or stairwells.

I caught glimpses of side rooms with smaller parties.

These became the inspiration for the gaming rooms in my story.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this unique dance bar.  The best part was knowing – even as I stood there barely able to hear my colleagues over the music – that I was going to be able to use the location in the story that had been evolving for over a decade.

What Goes on Here?  I’d long ago decided that gambling was going to be a major activity in the bar, with information the currency.  However, this vision lived in my imagination until I actually visited a casino in my late twenties.

Watching people sitting at bars playing game after game of digital poker while being served free booze fascinated me and inspired a scene between Christine and Jaliss.

Keeping It Alive.  I continue to integrate real locations into my stories, as I feel it enhances the realism, bringing them to life.

**  I write about this event in After Here: The Celestial Plane and What Happens When We Die.

Though I do not mention Metatron’s Army because it hadn’t yet become.  That took another 23 years and a boatload of living and learning.

 *** A number of open-minded individuals helped with that research, including my physics and pre-calc teachers, and a high school buddy who is now an astrophysicist at NASA.


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