Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Living in Twilight

DH and I spent this past weekend in Forks.
Unfortunately, it was 80 and sunny so we missed all the vampires lurking about as we hiked through the woods. We drove past the high school and didn't see any remotely pale and sparkly people (okay, I lie, there were plenty of pale people, just not quite that pale). We even made it out to La Push and got our picture taken at the treaty line between the vampires and the werewolves (yes, there is actually a road sign).

I'll admit, I'm not a huge Twilight fan. And we didn't come as pilgrims to this land of dark romance. We came on a scouting expedition.* We might have snickered a time or two at the tour buses making their rounds to various 'real and true' Twilight destinations. And once we definitely guffawed as a battered truck with a pit bull in the back passed us on the road. Over the tail gate was painted 'Twilight Sucks'.

But for this sleepy town with a population of <4000, Stephenie Meyers has accomplished something no one else ever could have; she brought this area to life. Even more, she brought her story to 'real and true' life. Almost every other store is named 'Twilight Something-or-Another'. Even the grocery story has its own Twilight section cordoned off (I almost chose the Bella Burger and the local burger joint). I don't think I can think of another book that's done to a town what Twilight has done to Forks.

And it's funny (even if I'm not a huge fan), how much of the books I remembered as we drove and hiked around. I listened to the birds, and twisted my ankles on the rocks and thought fleetingly of Bella and Edward in the forest. I smelled the salt of the ocean and felt the pounding of the waves and maybe just a little remembered that one scene where Bella almost got herself killed - again. And I was going to use this as a segue to worldbuilding, but I'm kind of losing my train of thought, and MaryAnn did such and excellent job (strange how the Proser's brains have been working the same direction so often these days, isn't it?), and I'll admit, I'm really, really tired.

photo by Bryan Bell
So, let me just say, creating the setting of a realistic world can be tough. If you can get out and physically experience a place similar to what you're writing, you will find little bits of inspiration that will come in no other way. Like the gnarled root I tripped over that looked like a goblin's face erupting from the ground (yes, it was creepy even in the daylight). Or the secluded beach we hiked to and the persistent warning that buzzed in the back of my head, because if we didn't get back to the trailhead in time we'd be trapped against the cliffs with the incoming tide. Oh, yeah, and don't forget to read the historical markers - did you know that the hot springs around Sol Duc were caused by two fighting dragons? They tore each others hides and the skin fell down as lichens over the forest, and when neither could prevail they sank into the earth to weep bitter, hot tears. Or so says the Native American legend - what an awesome story idea!

If you can't get out and experience a setting in person, though, Google is your best friend. Even Stephenie Meyer didn't really visit Forks when she wrote Twilight. Here's from her website:

For my setting, I knew I needed someplace ridiculously rainy. I turned to Google, as I do for all my research needs, and looked for the place with the most rainfall in the U.S. This turned out to be the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I pulled up maps of the area and studied them, looking for something small, out of the way, surrounded by forest... And there, right where I wanted it to be, was a tiny town called "Forks." It couldn't have been more perfect if I had named it myself. I did a Google image search on the area, and if the name hadn't sold me, the gorgeous photographs would have done the trick. (Images like these of the Hoh Rainforest (a short drive from Forks). Also see ). In researching Forks, I discovered the La Push Reservation, home to the Quileute Tribe. The Quileute story is fascinating, and a few fictional members of the tribe quickly became intrinsic to my story.

Your other best friend might well be Netflix. I love the huge selection of National Geographic specials they have. And watching Ken Burns's National Parks series opened my eyes to so many beautiful landscapes - and not static ones, but ones that changed through the seasons and through time, and because of the people who visited there.

Take home point, then,  before I collapse into bed, dream and be wild with your worldbuilding. Be open to using all your senses and use all the tools available to make your setting amazing.


*Every year my dh leads an intrepid group of a dozen+ boy scouts into the wild (last year it was to a rattlesnake infested desert). This year he thought he'd scout out the Olympic Peninsula. After hiking by the beautiful Sol Duc Falls and the Hoh Rainforest, I think he's finally settled on a 30 mile hike down the coastal beaches where he'll only have to keep the boys safe from riptides, high tides, rockfalls and raccoons. Sigh. I love my dh.


  1. Stephenie Meyer did make the city of Forks come alive. I agree that there is nothing like real life experience to make the setting feel more authentic. I wish I had more time for traveling. :)

  2. Yes, Netflix is one of my best friends. But I seldom learn anything of value from it...unless I walk in on my kids watching Mythbusters. National Geographic, eh? I'll have to add them to my queue. Fun post!

  3. I have a couple of friends who've taken vacations to Forks. It sounds beautiful, but I'd rather go to Disneyland personally.

  4. I travel a lot, and I try to visit every city that I write about during my research phase, but it doesn't always work out. Right now I'm writing about Rome, Georgia, and I'm relying heavily on Google and the memory of my good friend, who lived there for several months. I've also found that using Google's street-view map helps with visual knowledge of a city. It's not the same as physically being there, but it's pretty close.


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