Friday Inspiration: Research Your Setting

UnderCovers Part I: Alyx

The old adage goes: Write what you know, and this is particularly pertinent in regard to location. There was a good deal of criticism about E.L James’ depiction of Seattle, WA, many saying she had some of the roads incorrect and the time it took to get her characters around was inaccurate. Of course, if you are using a fictional location you’re free to name and describe places with no restriction or fear of criticism. But when using a locale of fame you need to be accurate and respectful of the residents who know every road and hangout and you better serve them well or be prepared to suffer their wrath.

My first novels were fantasy and I had more freedom to be carefree and loose with my geography. Although, personally, I found it difficult to describe places that only exist in your imagination. However, in real-life settings, when using a location you’ve never been to, you need to rely on someone else’s pictures or video. But nothing is as good as actually walking the terrain, making notes, and taking your own photos.

In my latest project my characters frolic in East Hampton, the playground of the rich and famous. Although I’ve lived much of my life in The Hamptons, it’s a broad area and the specific town of East Hampton is about thirty miles from my former home town of Westhampton. Thus, I’m not as familiar with every nuance of the geography and activities that occur there on a regular basis.

Main Street, Westhampton, NY
Main Street, Westhampton, NY

I intended to take a field trip to East Hampton this week. Unfortunately, I was derailed by back-to-back snowstorms. Instead I focused on Westhampton as this is my female protagonist’s home town and although she doesn’t spend any time there in the novel, the more detailed the backstory the more accurate I become in honing her personality and behavior.

My story, titled UnderCovers, is written with two protagonists, Special Agent Alyx Cameron and Dr. Daniel Taylor. This post is devoted to Alyx, next time to Daniel. So enjoy my montage of downtown Westhampton and look forward to my trip to East Hampton in a few weeks.

Obviously, my photography skills are lacking and I’ll try to get better close-ups for Part II. The Westhampton locals hangout out at the Beach Tree Cafe, the Post Stop Cafe and the Marguerita Grill–all on Main Street. Surfers and beach-goers frequent places like the Swordfish Club, Rogers and Lashley Beaches, the latter being billed as the beach for serious surfers. You’ll even find them surfing all winter! Although you can’t see it, the movie theater marquis says: Closed for the Winter. Many businesses are closed for the winter months and some right after Labor Day, which we’ve affectionately nicknamed Tumbleweed Tuesday.

Seeing the places my characters inhabit, walking their path with my own feet, inspires me to write with more detail and accuracy, and passion. So, I guess I’ll never write a story that takes place on the moon!

Alyx’s Childhood Home

Alyx's House


Here’s the way to the beach…

To Beach

The serious Surfers hang out at Lashley Beach

Surfing BeachBeach Club



Surfing Beach II





Swordfish Beach Club is members-only and has been around since the 1930s.


The movie theater and Performing Arts Center close down for the winter!

Movie Theater


Performing Arts CenterThe Beach Tree Bakery is the place to be before you hit the beach and when you’re done with throwing a few cold ones back at the Marquerita Grill.

Beach Tree Bakery








Marguerita Grill has great margueritas and Mexican Cuisine.

Marguerita Grill

The Post Stop Cafe is more serious fare…

Post Stop Cafe

Author: Caryn McGill

Caryn is a former high school science teacher, school district administrator and adjunct college professor.

We love comments and questions.

%d bloggers like this: