Fear in Writing: Write Around the World Week: Nashville, TN, USA

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Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Monday, October 18, 2010

Write Around the World Week: Nashville, TN, USA

North Carolina is a beautiful state.  From the Appalachians in the West through the pine-covered Piedmont to the swamp-riddled, wave-formed Outer Banks, there is a setting for almost every whim.  Raleigh, the capital city and where I live, is a diverse area.  RTP (Research Triangle Park) and reknowned universities like Duke and UNC bring people from the top of their fields to grow strong minds and encourage new ideas.

That is what I know about Raleigh, NC.  I could name a few individual projects popping up around the Triangle, as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area is called, but I can't tell you what brings people together here.  I have been to the Ballet, the convention center, various art galleries, the state zoo, etc.  I have worked in a news station that covered the entire state, and not seen a recognizable, cohesive thread.  Bottom line: I don't get Raleigh yet.  One day I might.  But for now, I would be doing an injustice to this area by placing my work here.

Nashville, Tennessee, on the other hand, is a place I have seen as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, and as a parent.  I have seen the politics, the business, the charity, the society, and the geography--and I have seen them all change.  I have watched others portray Nashville, pinholing the city as Country Music Capital of the World and ignoring the fact that it is a center for healthcare and medical supplies in the United States, or forgetting that it was once called the Athens of the South because of its high ratio of education facilities to population.  I have read books based in Nashville and seen the cities highlights--such as the Parthenon replica, the inspiring art commmunity, the vibrant Broadway and burgeoning urban living sections--almost completely ignored.

Is it easier to write about a place you love?  Yes.  Is that always the right choice?  No.  A good writer should be able to turn any setting into the backdrop for their work into the perfect setting for that work.  A village set in the New England countryside could be turned mysterious and rife with bitter temperaments for a psychological thriller.  A colorful, trendy, party-hopping city such as Miami could be candlelit and filled with lovers for a steamy romance.  A good writer can write what they need.

I choose to write mysteries.  I choose to create my characters from nothing and keep the setting as true to life as possible.  I am not someone who wants to make up my own town--though someday I might.  I think the diversity that is Nashville is a perfect background for good detective fiction. 

For more facts on Nashville, see these past posts: Athena, Deeper Darker Nashville, The Book and The City.

There is also a definite freedom to writing books set in the U.S.  Those of us who live here don't think about it very often.  In fact, we take a lot of the rights we have for granted.  But, especially in contrast to the Leighton Gage book I am currently reading (Gage will be here Thursday to talk about writing books set in Brazil), the freedom of movement we can give our characters is unique.  The rights our criminals and wrongly accused have give writers lots of leeway.  And the size and wealth of the country means we can have a character skiing in Colorado in one scene, carousing in New York City in another, and lying on the beach in Miami later on.  Feasible in a work of fiction?  Depends on the book and how much you want your readers to suspend their disbelief.  But the U.S. allows for this seemingly fictitious jaunts.

What does your country and/or city give to your book that is unique?

Tomorrow, we travel to Winterland with Cold As Heaven--sound fantastic?  I'm excited!


  1. Great post. I agree that not every town or city is a perfect setting for a mystery but I guess there's no harm in trying. Sometimes I'm surprised to find I like mysteries set in odd locations.


  2. Nashville is one of my favorite cities. If I ever move again, it will likely be to Nashville.

  3. Thanks for the great post and beautiful photos. I now really want to travel to North Carolina and Nashville. They both sound fascinating settings for books as well as interesting places to visit.

    One thing I've always admired and envied about many books set in the US is how rich your history seems to be. It's as though the historial origins and legends of every state and city help to shape it and add to its own distinctive feel.

  4. Sad to say, my only visit to Tennessee was a two-hour transit stop at the airport in Memphis. Nashville looks like a cool place. I'll put it on my list of places to visit, next time I'm in USA.

    Cold As Heaven

  5. We do take a lot about this country for granted. And there's so much diversity, too.

  6. Some cities/towns practically scream what they should be. Some like New York, LA, Nashville, etc. can be setting for all sorts of action.
    Makes me cranky when I read a book that appears to be set in the wrong place. It's like I'm fighting my way out of somewhere.

  7. Great post. We do take a lot for granted in the US. I think an author's love of a city can sometimes be seen and felt in their writing.

    Thoughts in Progress

  8. Great post. I think in most countries, there are things we take for granted that are actually quite rare. But it is nice to be able to set all your stories in the place that you love, isn't it?

  9. Michele - Thanks for introducing us to Nashville. I think most places have something unique about them that makes them interesting settings for a story. I have a special fondness for Philadelphia, and that's why I decided to make it the setting for my WIP. You've given me a lot to think about in terms of how to make the setting real to the reader.

  10. Where I live right now is a lake community. That comes with a lot of interesting nuances/characters! Very fun!

  11. "A good writer should be able to turn any setting into the backdrop for their work into the perfect setting for that work." --interesting take on that!

    I love the diversity we can have in the modern day. As you say, one minute in CO skiing and the next in NY. The South is certainly rife with sultry mystery settings--thanks for sharing about TN and NC! :o)