Roads As Setting In Dramatic Fiction

Where roads are concerned, writers and poets usually focus on intangible meanings such as spiritual roads, roads to recovery, the wrong or the right roads of action, etc. Sometimes, a road may even symbolize the meaning of one’s life journey.
On the other hand, the factual road people walk or drive on everyday may offer more excitement for the writer’s pen. If you take a walk on an average street and observe the events around you, you will come up with outer motivation and conflict for your characters or you will at least find fillers for your subplots.
While walking on any road, you might meet beggars, vagrants, criminals, traffic, accidents, roadkill, animals, plants, and people interacting with each other. In addition, you might notice the physical condition and the moods of the road, the buildings on its sides, and the distance it stretches.
Many fiction and travel writers and playwrights use concrete descriptions of the roads in their works. 1988 Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz , the author of Children of the Alley, Midaq Alley, Palace Walk, Sugar Street, has built quite a few of his stories solely around factual roads to support his dramatic scenes and portrayal of complex characters in depth.
In Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family and other Okie farmers, during the dustbowl disaster, are forced out of their homes to go on the road to make a living. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road depicts the adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they cross continental America in the late 1940s. Nelson Algren’s novel Somebody in Boots follows the travels of Cass McKay as he treads the gloomy streets of El Paso, New Orleans, and Chicago in the 1930s. Then, closer to today, who can forget Debbie Macomber’s The Shop on Blossom Street and the yarn store or the vivid setting of Lois Lowry’s Autumn Street?
For any writer, when using a certain road, street, alley, pathway, or a highway as a dramatic setting, vivid, concrete imagery is a must, because the sense of sight is the primary sense, and it can be manipulated in many ways to serve the writer’s purpose. Sense of sight easily leads to other senses and provides a transitional hook to what is intangible.
Introduction of fictional roadways in a real city can be acceptable if done with taste. While creating fiction with the facts of a local thoroughfare, a writer should be careful to protect the reputation of the place to avoid irritation.
As a writer, if your setting of a road is a real place within your reach, visit the location. Walk on it; feel it. To aid you later, take photos. Then, do not depend on the visuals only. Take a tape recorder or a note-pad and pinpoint the smells, sounds, textures, and other physical assets. Do not forget to add weather, climate, and mood, as well as the average characteristics of the people you notice on that road. If you are writing historical fiction, you can investigate the backstory of the street in the local library or the town’s archives. Adding factual roads and places to dramatic fiction makes a story more convincing and paints a more complete background.
When people read about a real street, they automatically assume that all the details are accurate; therefore, a familiar road that plays an important dramatic role in a story delights the readers of any town or city. If you use one of the roads of any small town as your setting, you can be sure that town’s local library will carry your book.

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