The other day I was going through some old photos and came across a reference photo I shot a few years back. It was when I was doing the preliminary research for my contemporary romance novel, The Deception.
Warning! Spoiler Alert!
The Deception is set in Phoenix, Arizona. The town in which I was born and raised, in case anyone is wondering. As we reach the big climax scene most of the characters have assembled for a hearing at the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse in downtown Phoenix. The hearing itself is short and to the point. It resolves one of major conflicts in the storyline, but there are other loose ends to tie up.
As characters leave the courtroom, Alex stays behind to discuss a different case with another attorney. The rest of the cast leaves the building, and upon stepping out to the plaza, Maggie, one of the antagonists, waits in the wings. A small handgun is concealed underneath her overcoat and she’s about to unleash her final revenge.
Using Real Locations Accurately
Whenever possible, I prefer to use fictitious locations as it gives me more creative latitude. However, there are times when it’s necessary to set a scene in a real place. The O’Conner Courthouse is a unique piece of Phoenix architecture. Therefore, I wanted to describe the scene in the plaza as accurately as possible. I was living in Tucson at the time, so I decided I would drive up to Phoenix and shoot some reference photos. I also invited my beta reader at the time to come along with me. We’ll call her, Ginny.
I planned on arriving after the building had closed for the day and the staff had gone home. I didn’t want to disturb anyone having business at the courthouse. It would also be a whole lot easier for me to find a parking spot. I had told Ginny about the scene I wanted to write, and I encouraged her to help me place the characters in the plaza. I planned on blocking out the scene like a director blocks a play.
So we get to the courthouse. I grab my camera, and as I’m walking around the plaza someone who was apparently working late steps out of the courthouse. Keep in mind this building is a landmark. It’s popular with photographers, and I’m not at all concerned about this woman telling me I have to leave. However, as I’m taking my next photo, I overhear Ginny talking to her. She’s telling her all about the scene I’m writing, and how it involves a character with a gun.
At this point my heart stops beating. The last thing I need is for this woman to get the wrong idea and call the police. It’s times like these when you’re grateful to have brought along your business cards. I quickly handed one to her and she walked away. Once she was gone, I finished up as quickly as I could and we left without incident. Interestingly enough, I haven’t previewed a real location since. That’s what YouTube is for.
I published The Deception about a year I visited the courthouse plaza, and it’s been one of my more popular contemporary romance novels. So far as I know, it’s still my editor’s personal favorite.