Stepping inside a New England Target only days after we’d moved from the South, my eight-year-old daughter did a double-take, saying, “We’re not still in North Carolina are we?” That uncanny sensation she was hit with—in her case from seeing the same old color scheme, mascot, and layout of our friendly neighborhood superstore thirteen-plus hours from home—is an ever-growing one, and it presents a challenge to fiction writers. In the age of globalized employment, shopping, and pastimes, how is a writer to create a satisfying sense of the local?
Making the Problem the Solution
First of all, keep in mind that modern readers are not strangers to the idea of the mass-marketed skyline. Realistic writing set in the present needs to acknowledge what’s the same from place to place; good writing makes “the problem” part of the solution by using a one-size-fits-all context to contrast area- or culture-specific content.