When it Feels Like Home (Holly Schindler)
I've lived in Missouri my entire life. I'm about the sixth generation of my family to call Missouri home. In an old census record, I found one of my ancestors said, when asked how long he'd lived here, a "long time."
That's about right.
I remember watching Winter's Bone several years ago--the book was written by an Ozarkian, and the movie was also filmed in southwest Missouri (my corner of the state). Anyway, one of the last scenes has the main characters outside. I forget exactly what they were doing (maybe hanging laundry?), but what got me were the sounds of the birds.
It sounded like home.
It was just different--you don't hear our birds in other films. You hear coastal birds. Those birds were singing the songs I wake up to in the morning. And it gave me goose bumps.
I often set my own work in Missouri, or the Ozarks. Often, the cities are fictional. But my aim is to always include details that will give people familiar with the area the same feeling I got at the end of Winter's Bone--that feeling of home. Those can be external details--weather, geography, types of businesses. But I also think that some character types--as well as mannerisms or speech patterns--can help provide a sense of place. So can food--dishes particular to a specific region. Dress. Lifestyle--what people do on the weekends, how they get to school, how they get around their town. All those things create a vibrant sense of location.
Yet, setting (backgrounds, etc.) can help bring a sense of vibrancy to a story. And the characters' lifestyles and behaviors can also help make a story's place become more vibrant as well.