My biggest “alternate reality” scenario seems to be with the careers of my characters. In The Earthside Trilogy, I actually put my characters in two professions that I considered in high school and college, but dismissed when I decided that administrative work was a better fit for the life I wanted to build. Kalea Kerner, the main protagonist, is an electrical engineer and her cousin, Annaliese Kerner Boyce, is a psychiatrist. Both were interesting career choices to include in the novel: Kalea’s was because my father was an electrical designer, so I grew up around engineers and briefly considered it myself (until I realized how my limited spatial skills made this a bad career choice, and that the extremely long work hours would not be conductive to a good home life for a woman). And Annaliese was interesting because I majored in psychology in college with intentions to continue on to graduate school and become a therapist, until a volunteer opportunity showed me that the research end of the field was much more interesting (and productive) than the practice end. While I’m certain I went on the right path career-wise, it’s natural to wonder what “might have been” if I had pursued these other options, and my writing gave me an opportunity to explore it, albeit in a fictional setting.
Speaking of settings, this is another area where writer’s experiment. Move and Obsidian, my last mystery novels, were set in the fictional town of Tanger Falls, Tennessee. Tanger Falls was modeled after the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area, which I visit on occasion and have always loved. Anywhere But Here is set in the fictional town of Palmetto Beach, which is based on the Surfside Beach/Garden City area south of Myrtle Beach, which I have visited frequently my whole life (and still do). And I threw in other locations that I visited when traveling for work, such as Scottsdale, Arizona, The Grand Canyon, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. The D.C. area is another major setting for The Earthside Trilogy, because I visited this area twice while writing the first and second books. It was interesting to move my settings to these areas, because frankly, there’s only so much you can do with living in the woods of a suburb of a small city. But the area’s growing. I read an article yesterday that said every major city is growing in SC, and a newspaper article a couple of weeks ago postulated that Columbia will break the 1 million population mark in the coming decades. So if I want a small town, then it’s going to take a bit more “doing” creatively as the world around me changes. And taking it to outer space in scifi is a whole other level of creating!
Of course, there are countless other things writer’s experiment with: marital status, family situations, financial status, social standing, education level, hobbies and personal interests, health and physical ability/limitations, and other demographics like gender, age, and race. The possibilities can be mixed and matched into endless possibilities. The ones that each writer chooses to experiment with says a lot about the wanderings of their own mind. I, obviously, am more interested in how and where a character is “rooted” to their life influences how they handle the plot of the story. Can the foundation of their life help them overcome their obstacles and shape them into a better person, or does it hold them back? At their core, all stories are about change. The creative difference is in the influencing factors the author uses to explore it.
So take a fresh look at the books you love, and consider what you can learn from the author about the people, places, and things they use to tell the story. It’s amazing what stories you can find within your stories, if you dig deep enough.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great rest of the week.