What do you say when people ask you where you’re from?
When I lived abroad, I had a friend who would like to hop in when I was being introduced to others: “She’s from America. Or like you call it, “The States” or “The U.S.” ”
There’s a typical conversation that goes down when I am asked this question outside of my home state that no longer surprises me.
“I’m from Upstate New York.”
The other person normally pauses at this, sometimes their head tipped to one side while they take my answer in and more specifically one word in my reply. If you are not familiar with that area of the world you likely may be thinking something similar.
“Why do people say the “Upstate” part when they say their from New York?”
I usually smile sweetly, perhaps a bit patronizingly. “What do you think of if I say I’m from New York?” This is the part where you bust out your best Broadway musical impression and belt ‘New York, New York.’
“There’s a whole state attached to that city.”
And of course, we do not like to be considered one and the same. The much more rural part of the state rolls their eyes at “citidiots” who buy weekend homes and with their two days a week demand that full time residents change the way things are done.
And then there is, as my close friend and editor from Long Island has commented to me once, “Upstate is pretty much just New Jersey.”
Ask some of your characters where they are from. What do they answer?
Some things to consider may be who is asking. Broader senses could be the planet or country they are from, where as closer by they may give out town names. Tell someone from the other side of the world you are a from a place called “Smallville” they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. Say you’re from “Mid-Western America” and there’s more of a connection.
Perhaps they pronounce the name differently from outsiders or have slang terms that are much more commonly used. It could be an answer that you’re a part of the “The Empire” rather than the more official term of “the Galactic Empire” and yet everyone automatically knows what you’re referring to.
If a similar looking visitor happened in, what would make them stand out besides having an accent? What sort of misconceptions might they have? Could it be confused with another place with a similar name?
Currently in the novella I am putting together (and hopefully posting on my blog) I’ve been toying with some of these ideas for Bartholomew. He was a foreigner captured by the current ruling empire of the land and works as a servant in the military training house. Some of my thoughts have been on the pride of the military men he serves and his not wanting to stir conflict while he attempts to accomplish his goals. But I’m afraid I don’t have much more than that yet!
You can also check out the last prompt here. I’ll try to get better about posting regularly!