Thanks to Stephanie Perkins and Paula McLain, I can visit Paris anytime I want. Shilpi Somaya Gowda has taken me to Mumbai. My tour guide in Maine is Elizabeth Strout. And I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with Cheryl Strayed.
Good books take us on a journey, both literally and figuratively. As a writer, I’ve started to think more carefully about the literal part. Because when it’s done well, setting impacts pretty much every facet of a story — plot, voice, character, theme, etc.
This is where “write what you know” can be useful. Presumably if you’ve spent enough time in a place, you can cull details from your experiences and imbue a story with them. Specificity is what brings pages to life.
But what if you want to write about someplace you’re not familiar with? Writers aren’t often jetsetters; we can’t just hop over to a foreign locale and take notes. So what’s the best way to create a rich and authentic setting?
Fortunately we live in a day and age with many excellent resources at our fingertips. Here’s what I generally recommend: [Read more…]