Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Strom Clouds Are Brewing

I love the wide open Texas skies that surround my house. At any given time I can view miles and miles of sky in any direction. Even when I am in town I can see a storm front on the horizon, one that might not even arrive here until evening.
At night I can watch the spectacular lightening show of an impeding storm. No sign of its presence for hours except for the jagged streams of light that dance across the sky on the horizon. Sometimes I can walk outside and just wait for the signs that the storm is almost upon me. I can sit unseen, darkness my cloak, as I listen for the distant sounds of thunder. Slowly, the wind begins to whirl around me with sounds of rumbling growing louder overhead giving me plenty of warning before the first drops of rain splatter against my upturned face.
No storm has ever snuck up on me while living in the Texas Panhandle. Some move quicker than others, but you know they are coming. That is why as a writer it unnerves me to read someones description of the Texas skies, whether it be the present or one hundred years ago, as some sort of silent stalker. It's difficult to stalk across hundreds of miles of open sky without someone noticing. Even if that storm builds right over you there is no missing it with no trees or tall buildings barring the view.
It kind of reminds me of those Hollywood movies where the setting is supposed to be Montana, yet when the actor drives along the highway you see Palm trees dotting the road. This drives me crazy. Who are they fooling?
Which brings me to my point. Whether you write historical or in the present what are some things you do to research your setting to make sure it come across as authentic? I myself tend to stick to writing about places I've been, but maybe not everyone does. Is there ways to get around that or will your reader not be fooled and know right away you've never walked along a crest in the Scotland Highlands?


Eileen Astels Watson said...

I'm like you, Kara, I stick to places I've been, even lived. But if I ventured to a distant place, I'd definitely being some research--got love google for that!

Warren Baldwin said...

Louis Lamour, one of the great western writers, used to go to the places he would write about. That gave a definite air of authenticity. wb

Warren Baldwin said...

Kara - I don't know how this happened, but my image in the following icon has gone to that shadowy head shape. That's happened on all of them I follow. Do you know how/why that happens?

Jessica said...

I love the pic! Amazing!

Mostly I stick to what I know, but for one book in Oregon, I did a lot of research and looked at a lot of pics. LOL

Jody Hedlund said...

Even if I could visit some of the places I write about, they wouldn't resemble the historical settings of the 1600's or middle ages. I might get a better feel for the weather or the vegetation, but I don't have to necessarily visit a place to describe what a mist on a face feels like or a butterfly on a flower petal.

I definitely agree that living in a place may add authenticity, but with the internet you can virtually visit any place. When I was doing research I could actually take virtual tours of museums. I learned so much. And if I didn't feel like I knew an aspect well enough, I didn't write about it.

Aimee said...

Love that picture...did you take it?

Kara said...

Eileen, you are right google is great for research.
Warren, Louis Lamour is a perfect examples.
Thanks Jessica!
Jody, I agree. Research can tell you a lot especially with historical. And the good thing is no one is around who lived in those times to tell us if we are right or not. Aren't some of those sites amazing? I could spend all day on some of them:)
Aimee, I think Scott probably took it. I take a lot of pictures, but if I don't remember he usually gets the credit:)

Terri Tiffany said...

Awesome picture! But I too tend to write about places I know or have been too. Probably cause I am too lazy to do the research!

Pat's Place said...

Beautiful, beautiful description of storms in the Texas Panhandle. I miss that SO MUCH--you made me so homesick for being able to see the weather coming. In our tree-covered neighborhood we cannot see anything of the sky--no sunsets, no clouds, no approaching storms, nothing. Sometimes I get really claustrophobic when there is a storm a-brewing and I cannot see what is happening.

Pat's Place said...

ALSO, my current art teacher will not let us paint a scene that we have not seen. She believes that we cannot put our soul into a painting unless we have seen--and experienced--what we are painting. Guess that is true of writers also.

Jill Kemerer said...

Ha! ha! I know what you're saying!

For contemporary research, Google Earth is really cool to see actual geography. Also, I like to go to CityData and read the Q/A's for different towns. Always informative.

Beautiful pic!