A Visual Tool for Writing

As I await a release date for the final installment in the Ark City Confidential Chronicles, I have begun work on a new historical crime fiction series. This one takes place in Wichita shortly after World War II. By setting it where I live, it should allow me to access research tools a lot more easily than driving 45 minutes down to Ark City.

I had began research on this series in April 2019 and began the first draft April of this year. Whereas much about the character has been fleshed out (a Jew whose father would have preferred he become a rabbi rather than a private investigator; a former policeman; a war injury representative of his personal imperfections, etc.) it is really the vibe and feel that needs to become as “real” to me as possible.

In working within this genre I have learned that I need to see what a time period looked like. The hairstyles and clothing, cars and buildings, businesses, all the aspects of day-to-day life which we so often take for granted need to become second nature to me. I already have two corkboards hanging up on the wall in front of me where I write. Having located photos of Wichita from the appropriate time period, I can easily look up for a brief reminder.

However, as I alluded to earlier, it is far easier for me to drive around looking for locations. To that end, I used a couple of hours the other day (while on vacation from work) to seek out the places, both real and fictional, to give me a greater sense of perspective. In some cases, the buildings still existed as they were back then, albeit different businesses now. There were also buildings at addresses that are to be in the first book (after all, this IS a series) which are representations of fictional businesses.

But, wait. There’s more.

I collated these photos into a short video, including both music and captions. It’s a mini book trailer that will never see the light of day. For me, it is exactly what I need to make all of this real. Some may say a writer needs only his or her imagination. While I used to think that way, I have come to realize there are many tools at our disposal as we continue to craft worlds, real or imagined, and populate them with characters who fit into those worlds and reach out to us from the page.

Seeing a photo or an old building imparts a reality that allows me to wander around in a time period nearly 75 years in the past. Hopefully, I will make it as real for my readers as it has become for me.

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