Certain settings really inspire me. I don’t mean settings for myself to write in, but settings for my stories to take place in.
Many of the settings that get my imagination going are foreign to me. Perhaps I can be creative with these settings because I’m doing all the work in my head. If the fundamental element of place is true for me largely because of what my imagination can do with something foreign but interesting, then other elements like character and plot flow on much more smoothly. Putting faith in my imagination for place and setting means that the rest becomes more pliable and willing to follow suit.
Some of the places I find inspirational:
The food tinted with rosewater and pistachio, the call-to-prayer, djinns and mosques… Istanbul isn’t somewhere I’ve ever been, but I’ve read it evoked so beautifully by other writers that it holds a special place for me. My favourite evocation of Istanbul is Alice Melike Ulgezer’s The Memory of Salt. Istanbul exists in my mind as a place where a certain kind of story happens. The version of Istanbul that I have in my head, is tinted with some magic.
I guess this one’s kind of foreign to everyone. We live in a world where we have conquered just about every space that can be conquered, and we seem to want to develop everything. Once we’re in a place, we don’t leave. So it’s rare and very creepy when for some reason, a place is abandoned. Chernobyl fascinates me, because it’s one of the very rare instances that even squatters won’t brave – we can see what happens when the land takes back.
Over the weekend, Scott Westerfeld posted a link on Twitter, to this amazing collection of pictures of abandoned theme parks. For a place that once created so much joy and happiness to be abandoned – well, I don’t think there’s anything much more melancholy than that.
I only heard about Macau yesterday, during an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He’s interested in Macau because the cuisine is a melting pot of Chinese, Portuguese, and the stuff that happens organically over time. I’m interested in Macau because it seems like a place that operates entirely outside of any worlds that I know. It’s not quite an Asian country, because its Portuguese heritage still has such a heavy influence on it. It’s not a Western culture, because it’s still very Asian in many ways. I like that a whole culture can sit in that ‘neither/nor’ space.
What settings do you find yourself drawn to in your writing?