GUEST BLOG: How To Write About Places You’ve Never Been by Alethea D. Grace

gp; alethea d. grace2Unless you’re rich and old enough to check into a hotel, or have parents who are willing to support your writing career at an incredible level, it might be tough to actually visit places you deicide to include in your story. However, many people get around this by doing extensive research. I’ve faced this exact situation while researching Canada. Here is my advice on how to go around doing research.

  • Talk to a librarian. Go down to your public library and strike up a conversation with a friendly-looking librarian. (Sometimes the stereotype about all librarians being nice is broken.) Me personally, my high school has an amazing school library that I go to. Unfortunately, not every school has a high quality library, which is perfectly fine. Wherever library you decide to go to, ask a librarian to help you find a few informational books about the place you’re researching. They’ll help you find the section in the building and probably recommend which books to use.
  • Read up and take notes. Jot down facts that are absolutely important to know as you read. If a character in your story is visiting Thailand for one reason or another, you might want to write down somewhere that people there eat fried insects as a snack. If your story takes place in China it’s probably important to know that cities are extremely polluted but rural areas most likely have clean air.
  • Are you a social butterfly? Do you have any friends who have been to the place you’re researching? Give them a call! I’m extremely lucky to have a Canadian writing friend who was more than happy to help me out. You can also tell your family what you’re up to, and see if they have any friends who they think can help and are willing to contact.
  • We live in the 21st century. Take out your phone, tablet, eReader, or computer and get on the internet. Search on Google, Bing, or whatever search engine you prefer. Just make sure it’s a reliable website and, no, Wikipedia is not reliable.
  • Read published novels. Not just any books, of course. Find stories that take place where you want to write about. If you’re writing about Scotland, you should consider reading The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.

Researching might take days or weeks, depending on how much information you need to collect. Really, it all depends on how much information you think you need. If you want to make it realistic (which is what every writer’s goal should be, whether fantasy, romance, or anything in between), you need to at least look like you know what you’re talking about. If you can’t do it for real, research enough to fake it.

And, remember, never give up. You can do this.


This post first appeared on Alethea D. Grace.

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