Location, Location, Location

I’m often asked by friends or readers of my books—“where do you get the ideas for your stories?” I even wonder that myself sometimes. Part of it is how writers observe life.
When I am in restaurants, or riding the ferry, or in any public place, I like to observe how people interact and it is interesting to overhear their conversations. I do that not to be a snoop but so I can think about their dialogue. I guess that’s the writer in me.
I also observe events and wonder what the story is behind what I’m seeing. By my home in the Seattle area is the terminal where one of the main Puget Sound ferries docks. One day I saw a young man, with an anxious look on his face, standing near the terminal holding a bouquet of flowers. I thought that there must be a story there.
Soon, I saw a pretty young woman depart the ferry and come running towards the young man with the flowers. She put her arms around him and kissed him. He presented the flowers to her. I wondered what their story was.
I thought of them when I wrote a chapter in my novel “Expiation” where the two lovers meet one another at the ferry terminal. Here’s what I wrote in Chapter 9 of “Expiation”:
On Thursday evening, I excitedly went to the harbor and waited for Katie. I felt my heart pounding when the lights of the ferry came into view as it approached the dock. There were a lot of people disembarking. I searched for her in all of the confusion. There were cars and trucks driving off, and a large crowd of people walking off the covered ramps. I positioned myself so I hopefully wouldn’t miss her. Then I saw Katie, wearing a bright blue rain jacket, carrying a small overnight bag and a small piece of luggage slung over her shoulder. We rushed towards each other.
We said nothing and she began smothering me with kisses as soon as we could touch one another. It was as if the missing part of my soul had just arrived.
I use real locations in my books. I think it makes it so much more realistic and interesting.
One of the settings for the lovers in “Expiation” is the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard. Recently I was driving through Ballard with some friends. I pointed out the restaurant where the two main characters, Katie and Dan, were reunited—Lombardi’s in Ballard. I pointed out several locations as we drove through Ballard where key scenes in “Expiation” occurred. My friends seemed amazed and said, “So this is real?” My answer was that I really try to make it that way.
At a recent book signing in Seattle, a woman approached me and picked up “Expiation” to read the summary on the back. She said, “I have to buy this book. My name is Katie and I’m from Ballard.”
Sometime writing can be like real estate. It’s location, location, location.
Check out my books “Sunbreaks” and “Expiation” at http://www.gregmessel.com. Also coming this summer is my third book, “The Illusion of Certainty.”


About gregmessel

I've written six novels and am working on a seventh. My first three novels were "Expiation," "Sunbreaks" and "The Illusion of Certainty." I'm now working on a series of mysteries set in San Francisco in the 1950s. In 2008, I retired from corporate life and so I can spend more time writing. I spent over ten years in the newspaper business. I now live on Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, just north of downtown Seattle.
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