I choose to set my writing generally in international locations. At first, the decision wasn’t intentional. It was rather something that just happened as I began another book or story. However, this choice regarding location later became a conscious decision that would occur again and again throughout my writing. I tried to determine why I kept choosing to position my stories and characters in locations that were for me international and outside of my general, everyday locale. The following are some of the reasons that I was able to derive for this decision, which at first was made unconsciously and then became something deliberately chosen for my writing projects.
Mindfulness and Observing Outside Our Comfort Zone
I think we become more mindful and pay closer attention to a sense of place, the sights, smells, sounds, and experiences that are taking place around us when we’re somewhere that we’re not very familiar or comfortable with. Why is this important then and how does it help our writing? I think it’s because we become more awake and observant of our surrounding environment than we might otherwise be when we’re suddenly operating outside of our comfort zone. We pay attention to the details. This degree of perhaps, “mindfulness” is heightened as well when we assume the role of traveler, explorer, or tourist. We’re more curious, observant, and at times more interested. An expanded sense of awareness also allows us to capture details in greater depth than we might have not otherwise noticed in our daily and more familiar surroundings. These details that we personally experience can then be transposed to the writing and make a story richer, more sensory, and detailed for the reader.
Conversations that one has with strangers and even with those one knows are different abroad. It’s a new situation, context, and the topics themselves become necessarily different from those back at home. Bits of dialogue that one hears or takes down in an international setting will also sometimes be unique in comparison to what one usually experiences. This can spark ideas for the writer that might not have otherwise been considered. On a basic level, it can be incorporated into the writing to add a degree of interest or flavor. However, these pieces of unique dialogue can also lead the writer and then their characters respectively, to taking actions or engaging in situations that they might not have previously considered pursuing in a domestic setting. Dialogue that is different for the writer can open up new pathways worth exploring in our stories. I think that is an additional reason why choosing an international location for a novel can be so interesting.
I enjoy learning more about a place. Travel and being in a new location lets me do that and to then transmit that knowledge through my writing. I also enjoy using my own travels to specific locales to influence my work. The history, customs, and details that I learn in places where I have spent time have had the unique impact of often leading to new pathways of exploration in my writing.
Language, culture, history, and customs all work as a connected whole when a novel is set in an international location. They influence the writing and further engage the reader in the piece. As a writer, it enables me to do what I love, which is learning and exploring. I’m exploring the new location physically, but also through research that lets me go deeper into learning about a specific place. If I’m interested in and excited about something, hopefully, that enthusiasm will be contagious to my readers. The writer and hopefully the reader will become more invested and interested in the place being discussed in the story because the level of engagement and interest has been increased. Researching deeper into a place that I may not know a lot about makes my own life richer. It also deepens the world of my characters. Hopefully, this enthusiasm then translates to my readers and increases their level of interest in the world that the story is set within.
Setting a story in an international location has enabled me to be more observant and to bring richer details into my writing. It has also provided me with the opportunity to engage in deeper research about places that I have lived and visited. This research has led me to explore many new paths that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered investigating in my writing. Choosing international locations for my writing projects has been a valuable opportunity that has made my own life richer and allowed me to share that same enthusiasm with my readers.
Robert Babirad holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Secondary English Education, awarded magna cum laude, a Juris Doctorate and a Masters in European Union Law awarded with Merit from King’s College London in the United Kingdom. He is admitted to the New York Bar and is also a licensed secondary English teacher. He has written for numerous international, peer-reviewed publications, including being a regular contributor to the King’s College London EU Law and Commercial and Financial Law Blogs, European Competition Law Review, Global Competition Litigation Review, The Institute of Competition Law based in New York and Paris, the National Council of English Teacher’s “English Journal,” New York Newsday, Addicted 2 Success, Tiny Buddha, The Mindful Word and The Oxford Mail (UK). He is passionate about travel, history, culture, reading, languages and the arts.