January 14, 2014

Writing About: Florida

Every state and country has specific characteristics that make them unique. (Arizona: orange dirt and rock formations. Africa: spacious land and wild animals.) And when you’re writing about a certain state/country it’s important to include at least one characteristic, or as many as possible.

Hurricane Crimes, my debut eBook, is set in Florida, so I thought it would be fun to go in-depth on the characteristics that make the Sunshine State unique for anyone who might want to write a story set in Florida.

·         Scenery

It is always important to set a scene. You have to give your readers all the details they need to clearly visualize a landscape or place. And when it comes to Florida, there are two places that set it apart:

1.    Beaches

If your characters go to a Florida beach, describe the sand made out of tiny seashell fragments; the large, dark rocks hiding beneath the waves in less than desirable spots; the dried, brown seaweed in clumps along the shoreline; the clear waters of Fort Lauderdale; and the shark teeth littering Venice Beach in Sarasota. Mention the warm sun turning their shoulders pink and the salty breeze that makes the snacks they packed taste better than normal. Even describe the people they see: women in their seventies several shades past tan, young girls in tiny bikinis, babies in swimmer pull-ups, and surfers in board shorts.

2.    Amusement Parks

Whether your characters go to Disney World or Sea World, while they may see different things, all amusement parks carry common traits: a mesh of tourists from all over the world (crying babies, laughing children, toddlers throwing tantrums, families, couples, and groups of students on class trips). They will pass shop after shop of souvenirs and small restaurants selling slices of pizza at ridiculous prices.

What your characters will see at Disney World, unlike anywhere else, are people munching on giant turkey legs and Disney Princess. At Universal Studios, they may see Marilyn Monroe or Beetle Juice. And at Sea World, they could see Shamoo . . . just before getting drenched with water.

Photos by Chrys Fey

·         Cities

There are cities all over the world known for their qualities. (New York City: yellow cabs, sidewalks packed with pedestrians, and skyscrapers. London: the Eiffel Tower, fashion, and sparkling lights everywhere.) In Florida, there are four main cities that I believe make great locations for stories.

1.    St. Augustine

The oldest European-established settlement in the United States. St. Augustine is enchanting with its roads made of crushes shells and rocks, ancient forts, lighthouses, and Spanish colonial-era buildings.

2.    Orlando

The city where hundreds of people commute to, consisting of shining glass buildings, and the most amusement parks than anywhere in the world. A man and a woman could have a fender bender on their way to work and fall in love later.

3.    Daytona

A city that comes alive with thousands of bikers every year for bike week. Maybe your heroine will meet a young, leather-clad biker.

4.    Miami

The most popular city in Florida. Miami is known for its crazy heat, beaches for scantily-clad sun lovers, and network of highways full of insane drivers.

There are other places you can set a story of course, such as Key West, a great location for a summer romance, or the Everglades, a perfect spot for a mysterious story.

·         People

Every state creates its own breed of people, and if you’re writing a book based on a certain state then you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to play with the typical citizen roles.
TIP: The best example is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series set in New Jersey. I’ve never been to N.J., but after reading just one of these books I feel like I am there.
Florida is a melting pot of people for all races and ages. Although I don’t believe we have a certain set of personality traits as you could say New Yorkers, Texans, and Bostonians do, you can definitely play with the mix of people wherever your characters go.

Photos by Chrys Fey

·         Weather

I didn’t exactly get the chance to write about beaches, cities, or even people beyond the three characters in Hurricane Crimes, but I did write about weather. Weather not only impacts a setting, but can influence the tone of a story as well. If you want to write a steaming romance, you can set your story in Florida during the summer and let the sweltering heat inspire your character’s lust.

1.    Thunderstorms

Florida is the lightning capital of the world, and for good reason; the thunderstorms can be deadly. If you want your characters to experience an intense storm include flashes of lightning, claps of thunder that shake the windows, hail the size of peas to golf balls, downpours of rain that drum against the roof, and slashes of wind that knock down weak trees. Let’s not forget the loss of power that always happens during a powerful storm.

2.    Hurricanes

Like a thunderstorm but a hundred times more powerful. The wind can have the strength to knock down power lines, rip off roofs, and destroy houses, and the rain can cause floods. Unlike with a thunderstorm though, Floridians prepare for hurricanes by stocking up on supplies and boarding up windows. A hurricane can also last for days.

QUESTIONS: Do you live in Florida? Have you ever visited? 
What did you like the most? Like the least?

SHARE: Your tips for writing about Florida.


  1. I have been to Orlando. I went with my HS Band as a Contest Trip. We went to the beach and to Disney World. I loved that the water was much clearer that that of Galveston.

    1. I also love how clear the water is the farther South you go.

      And you're so very welcome! I really do hope you enjoy it. :)

  2. Here are few odds and ends to add to your list, Chrys. First, not only is it hot in Florida, but it is really humid to. Humidity is uncomfortable, and makes people sweat a lot. Also, Florida's terrain is really flat. Driving on the Beeline Expressway and similar reinforces the feeling that the ocean could just roll right over the place. Last, Florida has many contrasts. To name two, while the state is a haven for retirees--blue haired ladies and gray haired older men who drive really really slow. At the same time, you also have Cape Canaveral - for a time called Cape Kennedy before it reverted to its original name--launch pad for the Apollo missions and the Space Shuttle missions.

    I'm a frequent visitor to your blog and find your posts helpful to writers like me who are starting out. I really like your 'writing about' a specific topic, locale, or some such; they are really thought provoking.

    1. Those are great additions to my post, Tony! Yes, the humidity can be a killer. And I totally forgot to mention what it's like to drive along the Beeline. I'm glad you mentioned it in your comment.

      Thank you so much for being a frequent visitor, and I am super happy you like my "writing about" posts. I have a lot planned this year for that feature. ;) Hope to "see" you again. :)

  3. I love this, Chrys! And I certainly do agree with you about scenery. I absolutely cannot get into a book if the detail just isn't there. I'm addicted to details.
    I will be tweeting away for your book! So excited for you and I hope this brings in some more readers=)
    I've been to Daytona and Miami but I think I liked Daytona much better. It a bit quieter than South Beach if I remember correctly. We were there for bike week so maybe it wasn't too quiet! But I recall Daytona always lingering in the back of my mind.

    1. Thanks, Gina! I had fun creating this post and reminiscing on memories. I am the same way. I love details. The more the better!

      Thank you for the tweets! I so appreciate it, as you know. I have gotten a few new readers who say they are fans. And for someone who has never had fans before, that is awesome! :D

      Miami is a lot louder and more crazy. I remember when I went to Daytona for a few days when I was a kid and it seemed majestic in a way. :)

  4. This is a really neat post! When I was in college, I did a lot of "local flavor" writing for my classes. People were constantly asking me questions like, "is a raven like a blackbird?" and "Is it normal for the roads in Georgia to be red?" It was fun! I felt like a tour guide.

    I grew up going to Florida. My favorite aunt lived in Bradenton (sp?) and I remember the endless rows of orange groves and the miles and miles of retirement trailer part villages :)

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed this post, Jen! If you could write a post about Georgia to help writers who want to set a story there, I would love to have it as a guest post on my blog. :)

  5. I am a roller coaster junkie, so I've been to all the parks in Florida. Part of one of my books is set in Orlando and yes, I sent the characters to an amusement park.

    1. Oh I love that! Thank you for sharing, L. Diane! :)