After much deliberation and a session bouncing ideas off the hubby, I decided on the location pictured above, a spot I’ve wanted to use for a while. I see it every time I cross the Walt Whitman Bridge from Philadelphia to New Jersey. The place intrigues me.
Once I had the spot — the grounds surrounding an operational pier, part of the Delaware River Port — I couldn’t come up with an opening that satisfied me, so I researched. I looked up what kinds of ships dock there, what they deliver. I hopped on Google Earth and looked around. This real life information, plus the structural details, made the place come alive in my head. I could see my way into the scene.
I began with an image of two of my characters standing at the base of one of the storage tanks. I thought about why they might be standing there, which led me to the weather. Then I was off. The descriptive details began to flow and the whole scene unscrolled like I was watching a movie. All because I looked up the fact that they deliver grains, wood products and fertilizer at this particular pier. Facts you’d need for a news story about the place, but hardly necessary for fiction. Double hardly necessary for science fiction fantasy. Why does it work for me? I have no idea.
You may ask, but what about the worlds you’ve created entirely from scratch? The Covalent Realm. The Destructive Realm. You can’t research them like you’re a reporter.
My answer is, I do! I research them like a science reporter. This is apropos. I can tell you that quite often the reporter a newspaper assigns to cover a science beat has no background in science whatsoever.
Nonetheless, real-world information worked its magic on me. No matter how fantastical my worlds are, I use science (at least my imperfect understanding of it) to launch into the creative process. And boy o’ man, it’s fun.