Laura Donohue on writing about what – and where – you know.
My novel First Sight takes place in and around Washington, DC. A few people who’ve read my book have asked if I was familiar with any of the places in my story. The answer? Yes, of course!
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given about writing is to “write what you know.” Whether intentionally or not, every place you go, every person you meet all play a role in your writing. They’re all part of how we experience and perceive the world. Even when writing fiction, what we’ve seen affects our writing. Although I already had a plot in mind when I started writing First Sight, the backdrop of DC played a big role in where my characters live, work, and spend their free time. It’s almost like another character in the book!
I grew up in Northern Virginia, which is part of DC’s sprawling suburbs. DC itself is only a metro ride away, and my characters are frequently hopping on and off the metro throughout the story. (Note: Don’t call it the subway like in New York!) As a child I’d ride the metro into the city with my parents to visit museums and monuments, as a college student I’d frequently head there with friends, and as an adult I’m in the nation’s capital for both work and fun. Life has come full circle, because now I also enjoy taking my daughter into the city to enjoy the museums and sights!
I love the setting of Washington, DC for my novel. It’s a popular city with young adults just out of college who are starting their first jobs and making it on their own. In recent years, it’s even been named the number one city for millennials. The main characters in my story are all young. The setting fit in perfectly with Maddy and Travis’s characters, who are just starting out and navigating the world of work, life, and love.
The other advantage of writing about DC? I didn’t have to research a city I’d never been to or try to recall details of somewhere I’d only been once or twice. Places I visited in DC as a kid and others I frequent as an adult all show up in my story. The National Gallery of Art is still one of my favorite museums/galleries in DC. The sculpture garden and ice skating rink are right there, too, if you happen to visit! Although I didn’t mention specific restaurant names in First Sight, several of the restaurants the characters go to are based off real places.
Even though the story is fiction, it was fun writing about locations I’ve been to and enjoyed. I still remember reading a mystery as a teenager that happened to take place in Washington, DC. I thought it was so cool to read about my hometown in a book. I’ve always loved to read, but there was something special about having places I’d been to and recognized show up on the pages. I really felt like I was in the story. Plenty of chick lit novels seem to take place in New York City, and I liked the idea of doing something a little different with my book. Some local friends who’ve read First Sight have mentioned the same thing — they loved having the DC aspect of the story.
Although I’ve lived in the DC area my entire life, I enjoy traveling and have been to some fun places around the world. I’m sure some of them will eventually be making appearances in future books! Location is one of the most important parts of storytelling.
Maddy Smith writes for a trendy website in Washington DC, has two fabulous best friends, and her own apartment. When a girl’s night out ends with her locking eyes with the handsome stranger across the room, the last thing she expects is for him to show up at her office on Monday morning.
Travis Emerson, her attractive and single new colleague, just moved to town. Although an immediate friendship between Maddy and Travis forms, she soon finds herself wishing for something more. After a misunderstanding between them occurs, not only is her hope for a relationship ruined, but their friendship is in jeopardy as well. Is any chance that Maddy had with Travis over? Or could he possibly be what she’s been looking for all along?
Follow Maddy and Travis on a series of adventures that will quickly have you cheering them on. First date jitters? Not when you’ve been in love since First Sight!
Laura Donohue is a graduate of George Mason University. She spent ten years working as a technical writer and editor before publishing her first novel. She lives in Washington DC with her husband and daughter.