It’s always ideal to visit the location you plan to set your story, especially if it’s a contemporary story, but it may not be possible for any number of reasons. Still, you want the setting to be as accurate as you can make it. You want the readers who’ve been there to feel as if you have, too. But how can you create this sense of a fully-dimensional location you’ve never been to?
Here are my 10 tips.
- 10 Tips for Researching a Setting You Can’t Visit click to tweet
- Can’t visit the setting you want to write about? Here’s 10 tips for research: click to tweet
1. Interactive maps such as Google Earth and Google maps. Man-on-the-sreet is a terrific exploration tool for Google maps. Open a map in Google and look for the little yellow man on the zoom-in-or-out panel. Drag him onto any street or highway that turns blue to get his view of that location. You’ll be able to see the business or house fronts, trees, whether the intersection has stoplights, and many more helpful bits of information.
2. Travel guides and memoirs from your library. These are particularly helpful to experience foreign countries.
3. Wikipedia —yes, I know it isn’t always completely accurate, but it tends to give a good overview of history, major industries, standard of living, ethnicity, etc, of any given town, region, or country.
4. YouTube. You can relive many experiences and settings (without smell or touch, of course—sometimes a benefit!) from your armchair. Get the feel of a South American open-air market, for example.
5. Flickr photos and personal blogs. Tourists take pictures wherever they go, and many times they load their experiences onto public photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and write about them on their blogs.
6. The town’s official website and/or Chamber of Commerce site. You can get a good feel for a town this way, and can often find business email addresses if you’re looking for very specific information.
7. Tourism Brochures. Sign up to have tourist information, etc, mailed to you (or download what you can.)
8. Online newspapers. Read the city or area paper online. Get a feel for their current events, what constitutes news there, and how much houses or rent cost.
9. Restaurants. You can find restaurant reviews and menus on sites like Yelp.
10. Facebook. There are groups for everything! Search out groups for your area, whether it’s a tourism board, a geocaching group, a rodeo club, a gardening club, or anything specific to your story’s plot as well as setting. These are often open groups where you can join and ask questions.
There you have it: my ten tips for researching a setting you can’t visit. Can you think of any you’d like to add?
Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net