L – Local Color

My A to Z Challenge theme is teaching you how not to write a book, or a short story, or any piece of creative writing whatsoever. For more information, including links to previous chapters and lessons, please refer to this post. Now buckle in and proceed with…



Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine.

There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy.

Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever.

Local Color

Once Hawk realized what a fool he was–cooking up Dropsy’s brothers and sisters and expecting her to eat them–he went to the cabin and got her something more palatable. He made her a roast beef sandwich and a hearty stew of potatoes and carrots, another throwback to his manly childhood on the bull circuit. She seemed much happier with this and they cozied up on the sand, eating and chatting, her with her stew and him with his grilled fish.

As they ate, a group of young people strolled by. They appeared to be of Italian descent, with putrid orange spray tans, gigantic gelled hair, and swathed in Gucci and Prada. They were chattering loudly when they noticed the two of them on the sand and stopped.

“Oh my God, like.” One of the girls pulled her designer sunglasses down her nose—though it was dark out now. “There’s this creepy old woman who’s been following us around. Like, stay safe you guys.”

“Yah.” One of the men flexed his oiled biceps and tugged his visor down over his broad brow. “Like, I might have to beat her up. I totally will. By the way, is that a mermaid, or am I totally drunk? I know I’m drunk, but like, is that a mermaid?”

Hawk smiled. “It is, indeed.” He loved the people of New Jersey.


Local color, also called regionalism, is important in a lot of books. Readers even seek out certain authors and types of books based on their love of a certain region. Where the story takes place can be as important as the characters and the plot. Sometimes it’s not just a backdrop but a vital piece of the story itself—you couldn’t just pick the story up and put it somewhere else, or it wouldn’t be the same.

That being said, if you write about a specific region, city, town, or any other place, if you don’t actually live there you need to do your research and get the local color correct. Don’t rely on stereotypes and things you see on TV. If it’s someplace you’ve actually visited, even better. But if you haven’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t write about it, and do so faithfully. The internet is a wonderful place for information, and also for reaching out to people who live in that area. Until I started writing this lampoon I actually had no idea New Jersey has a ton of beautiful state parks and lakes…I had only ever seen Jersey Shore nonsense and heard how trashy it was.

Author: Megan Morgan

Paranormal and contemporary romance author.

29 thoughts

  1. Just discovered your blog after your visit to mine. Invaluable advice, and not just here. [Did that sound like a spammy comment?]

    Anyway, I tend to do a lot of research on my settings, partly as I sometimes stray to foreign parts, and even more because I worry that the real residents will complain in droves.


  2. J here, of the #atozchallenge Arlee Bird’s A to Z Ambassador Team.
    How has the challenge been going for you so far? Are you meeting your goals of posting and hopping to other blogs? M= 1/2 way point!
    My blog’s giveaway is still going! I’m encouraging everyone to visit more stops.
    And yet, having been to Jersey many, many times… not all that wrong. Yes, that’s only a small percentage of the population. Certainly not the better part. But I have seen them. There seem to be little stereotype colonies in Jersey. It’s like a giant high school cafeteria.
    But your point is still valid. I’ve given up on several books that were written by people who so obviously have never been around an actual Native American. It only gets worse when those authors think western tribes and eastern tribes all have the same culture. Kind of like France and Japan have the exact same cultural history, right? I mean, they both wore clothing and had buildings and ate food. So obviously they are the same people.
    Sorry, that’s my go to rant on the topic when people ask if I have a huge feather headdress.


    1. Oh gosh, yes. I totally get what you’re saying. The way Native Americans are sometimes treated in literature is just an awful, stereotypical mess (the same way in a lot of movies too). I think if you want to write about something faithfully you need to do A LOT of research and work beforehand (maybe even talk to the actual people you’re writing about) and that’s the part these people who write these messes don’t want to take on.

      The challenge is going great for me so far. Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Having never seen Jersey shores, I had no idea New Jersey was getting such a bad reputation. I was going to say that these people sounded like Californians (or at least, stereotypical ones–“valley girl” type writing) with all the “like’s”.


    1. Hahaha I think they’re a bit like the east coast version of Valley Girls. I’m sure New Jersey wishes that it was the beautiful parks and lakes, not their ‘talent’ that most people think of when they picture the state.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. I was going to say, looks like the cast of Jersey Shore wandered into your story! Your handling of them was particularly cringe worthy. One of my favorite authors had a stereotype character show up for a scene. He was a guy who lived in Hawaii so he was a surfer and a dolphin shifter. His name was Fin. I laughed so hard while groaning.

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author


  5. I think this is one of the most tricky of the ements of settings. I’ve read quite a few stories that relies on stereotypes more than research. Some are just generalizations, some just look for the colouful detail like that’s enough to create atmosphere and setting.

    I agree with you: we can indeed write about a place we have no experience of (otherwise, I’d never have written about 1920s Chicago 😉 ) because we can learn anything, but I think we shoudl strive to go deeper than the surface and the obvious. Sometimes even go the extra step.


    1. Yes! I’m a much bigger fan of stories that really get into what it’s like to live somewhere, not just the usual stereotypes we see. I realize those images exist because they DO exist in real life, but we tend to latch onto those superficial things instead of looking deeper–where it’s a lot more complex and interesting!


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.