I tend to develop a character first and let them talk to me and tell me their story. Yeah, I know that sounds pretentious or even barmy but it works for me: the plot comes out of the characters rather than the other way round.
Today, though, I would like to focus on something that I think is almost as important – the story location.
My dear old dad was an estate agent. He gave me two important pieces of advice. The first was that I should never borrow money on an endowment mortgage and the second was location, location, location.
American companies have a tendency to buy British TV programmes , not to show, but to relocate to America with a new script and actors. Sometimes this works (for example, how many Americans know that Sanders and Son is actually a British comedy about two London rag and bone men with a horse and cart) but often it doesn’t. Fox bought the 90s hit British urban fantasy drama Ultraviolet, which told the story of the Inquisition’s vampire hunters in London. They changed the location to New York, which meant using American actors and a plot rewrite. Apparently the result was so bad that it has never been screened in public. Ultraviolet was a London story about 1990s Londoners.
Location is a key part of the creative process. It creates the atmosphere for the story. I ask myself what sort of people I would find in this place and how they might interact with my heroes? Why would my POV characters be there? I go to the place, or look up pictures if that isn’t possible. I study the buildings, terrain, climate, vegetation, machines. I try to soak up the colours, the smells, the very taste of the place. I focus on details. That’s where I get ideas for sub plots and twists.
The short story I am currently writing is even named after its primary location.
Location-specific writing works for me. I have no idea whether this technique will work for you, but have a look at the work of Ian Fleming. Go back and read the Bond thrillers and imagine them relocated elsewhere – Casino Royale reset in a Wigan Bingo Hall? – naaagh!