A chance to travel to Europe! When my husband jetted to France this month on business, he suggested I come along and turn it into a vacation. We left early, added a few days in the Netherlands, and when he started working, I did, too. After all, a character in my work in progress visits the same area, and this gave me a wonderful opportunity to research the countries he’d visit. But there was a problem: how would I remember enough to write about them after I’d returned home?
Photos are a great memory jogger, but I needed more. Cameras can record the houses lining the canals, so close together that they share their outside walls, but they can’t reproduce the brush of drizzle against my cheeks or the slick, uneven bricks underfoot. So I described my observations, using all of my senses, in a journal. (Confession: taste was the most fun.) We did many of the usual touristy things, but I also looked for details and interactions between people that would add a touch of realism. But it’s possible to be too realistic. I dialed it back after taking a shortcut through an alley after midnight. I write mysteries, but witnessing a murder is something I’d prefer to leave to my imagination.
Will I successfully evoke Europe to my readers? I won’t know until after I finish my novel. But if I don’t, I’ll try convincing my husband we need to spend more time there for me to get it right.