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.
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:
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.
|Middle and last pictures courtesy of Ashleigh Stahl.|
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|
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.
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.
A city that comes alive with thousands of bikers every year for bike week. Maybe your heroine will meet a young, leather-clad biker.
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.
|Photos of Miami courtesy of Jamie Diaz|
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|
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.
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.
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.