As writers, we make up sooo much. Dialogue, conflict, sexual positions…ahem. I digress. The point is, most of what is in our books comes from our very fertile imaginations. And that generally works well! But I’ve learned that whenever possible, taking a location scouting trip makes all the difference.
Last weekend I went to Atlantic City. It will be the location of the sequel to my beach fling caper Love at High Tide. I’ve been to AC before on whirlwind overnights, where all I saw was my room, the spa, some great restaurants and a casino. (FYI – the people watching on New Year’s Eve in Atlantic City is positively epic. Who am I kidding – the people watching any day in AC is prime.) So why go again? After all, Ocean City, MD has a boardwalk. For that matter, so does every coastal town between here and AC. How different could the famous AC boardwalk really be? Why pay for a hotel, drag my husband out of work and spend three days? Because this time I wanted to dig up the tiny details that will resonate with locals and vicariously transport people there. Was it worth it? Heck, yeah! As is illustrated by the photo to the left. The rolling chair. First of all, the AC boardwalk is about three times the width as any other I’d ever seen. And then it took me less than five minutes to notice the rolling chairs. Yes, people chuck their self-respect out the window and sit in what is basically a glorified wheelchair with an awning and get pushed from casino to casino. It is utterly iconic to the AC boardwalk, and a detail I never would’ve gleaned with doing the legwork.
Then there is this awesomeness. The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium (i.e. museum of crazy stuff) sits on the boardwalk. I thought it would be a quirky and fun place to set a scene. Oh. My. God. I would need to set the entire book in there and still not be able to fully convey how much fun it is. So in case you can’t make out the writing, the photo on the right is a picture of a penis sheath. Tribesmen in New Guinea wear them as often as Wall Street stockbrokers cycle through neck ties. I can’t make this stuff up! And I certainly never would’ve imagined something like that being hidden away right on the family friendly boardwalk.
The things I discovered on this fact-finding mission (along with the $170 I won five minutes after sitting down at a slot machine-dont’ worry, I promptly got up and squirreled away my money) will make my book sparkle. Could I have written a perfectly descriptive and fun book without going up there? Sure. But this will put it into over-the-top goodness. I can’t wait to start weaving everything I saw into the story!