Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Research Places At A Distance


I was asked, "Is it possible to research location details accurately and convincingly without having been there?"

To a degree, yes. It's obviously best if you can go (Manchester! Manchester!), but if that isn't possible then you use all the resources available: maps, books, blogs, first-hand accounts, Google street view. Go to a place like it (a similar town, a similar terrain). Finally, add your imagination. Then you realise there is another step that is the proper final one: get someone who's been there (or lives there) to check what you've written.

When I wrote a story set in Myanmar, I sought feedback from residents as to the language, places etc. I did the same with Scotland (for a story written in Scots), and for a story set in the US. This kind of feedback from natives is the safety net that gives us licence to run wild in the draft.

Remember that setting can be character, and places can drive plot, but don't fill a story with everything you've learned just for the sake of it. You are aiming at a delicate flavour, so don't tip the contents of all your spice and herb jars into a single pot.

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2 comments:

Noelle Kelly said...

I hadn't thought if Google Street view!I'm working on a short story based in Chernobyl so that might be an idea!

Karl Drinkwater said...

If you had a VR headset you could buy Chernobyl VR. http://www.chernobylvrproject.com/en/o-projekcie.html :-)