While scanning through several WordPress articles on…something, I came across a review of another sci-fi novel. It was a post-apocalyptic book, I believe, that doubled as an alien invasion story. Something said either in the post or in the comments was that readers could tell the writer had been inspired by his native Arizona, both with regards to this story and his previous works. His stories either take place in that state or in worlds that look like it.
Dean Koontz does much the same thing. Almost all of his stories take place in California. His characters might be from other states or countries but, eventually, they somehow find their way to the Golden State. The love a writer has for his or her native place often finds its way into their works. This may be a subliminal habit at first, but once an author becomes aware of this tendency, they usually begin leaning into this habit “on purpose.”
Looking over my own fiction, I have realized that a great many of my planned or finished stories take place on worlds or in places that resemble Virginia. If you can picture James Cameron’s fantastic world of Pandora crossed with Endor, you come pretty close to the picture I see every day here in this state. Having never spent much time in big cities, I can’t say precisely what those look like. The rest of the Old Dominion is another story, however.
Certainly, the trees here are not nearly as tall as California Redwoods, but the vines and jungle-style foliage of Pandora would fit in perfectly during the summer months. With all due respect to the imported Kudzu, you have not seen vines until you have seen thick, green ivy devouring warehouses that are still in use. Or until you have had to cut parasitic grapevine off of trees to prevent the host plant’s eventual death. Sunrise and sunset make the comparison to Pandora even more acute, as the glowing sun spills its pastel paints of seashell rose, royal purple, and gold across the sky as the woods darken with the onset of night.
Autumn here is usually a riot of color (this year was a bit drab). The forests literally look like they could be on fire; there are so many different shades of orange, red, and yellow vying for the eye’s attention that a viewer can become lost in the panoply of shades. Wood fires mix with the taunting, chilly nip in the air.
The wind picks up in autumn and winter, too (it’s almost non-existent in the summer). Although we do not always get snow, it can become bitterly cold here during the winter. You can tell it has been a cold night when you open your curtains and see hoarfrost icing what’s left of the grass and the dead leaves. If it takes time to fade, then the day is destined to be chilly; if it vanishes after thirty minutes or an hour, the day is not going to be unpleasantly cool. We get warm winters here every few years, of course, but they are oddities, not the norm.
Spring in Virginia is truly spectacular. The gray clinging to the trees drops away, to be replaced by bright green. The transformation on the land itself is truly impressive; it’s like watching the dead come back to life, in a way. The dull gray earth turns vibrant green so quickly you could almost think you blinked and missed the change. Only over the last few years have I noticed how the soft spring greens creep over the landscape, erasing the harsh lines and sharp edges winter etched into the ground.
The change to summer means the humidity and heat spikes upward. At first it is not too much of a problem, but as the summer progresses, temperatures can reach ninety-five to a hundred degrees Farenheit. Add to that the intense humidity, and it can make one feel like a melting stick of butter during a walk or a jog. But watching the bright jade leaves darken to a more mature emerald is worth the change, as is hearing crickets sing in the grass and watching fireflies rise up to join the stars.
It is not hard to see how I draw inspiration from my surroundings for my stories. God knew what He was doing when He made Virginia; it is an absolute wellspring of inspiration for the discerning writer, no matter the season. This author can’t help but think He made it that way on purpose, since she can go almost anywhere in the state and see scenery that makes her cry out in her heart, “Thank you, God, for this beautiful, beautiful place!”
And lest you doubt that this author alone finds the Old Dominion inspiring, take a listen to this fantastic song praising God for the beauty of Virginia:
What about you, beginning authors? Do your stories show this same kind of love for your native place? If so, try tapping into that well of love for your fiction. The things we care for best are the things we want to share most. And what is writing, in the long run, but a fantastic way of sharing what we love with others?