Visit the Setting(s)
Setting the scene is vitally important when you’re trying to create a realistic novel. Looking at pictures of a place just isn’t the same as actually being there. To realistically convey its presence, you need to use more than just a cursory description of what a location looks like. Add details, including sounds, smells and even the sense of touch. You can sample local cuisine to learn what flavors are associated with the area. These powerful bits of information can’t be gleaned from photos. If you’re writing about Coney Island, visiting it is a great place to start. As you eat a hot dog and watch people, you can begin to conceive what kinds of drama could occur in this venue. Traveling to locations is great research.
If you want to know what it’s like to have a particular job, you should interview people who do it. Looking for fresh angles requires that you do your own research rather than merely relying on the observations of other writers. Everyone notices different details. A professional can show you some of the equipment and techniques that are used in the trade. For instance, if you’re writing on disease or the environment, there are many relevant types of professionals to seek to interview. Broadening your scope can help you gain deeper insight into your character and even the story. You can do this by reaching out to friends or family, or even doing a general call for help on social media.
If you want to know more about a topic, take the time to read some of the most relevant works of nonfiction on that subject. This type of learning can help you understand a distant time that you can’t visit, and it can suggest realistic details about things with which you’re unfamiliar. For instance, if your main character is a homicide detective who is forced to use his gun, you’ll need to know what kind of gun a policeman in that time and place would carry. If you miss this detail, you’ll have broken your readers’ trust.
Write What You Know
One of the pieces of advice given to writers most often is to write about things they understand. Many things you’ve done would be interesting to other people if described in a compelling way. If you were a lifeguard at a waterpark in a tourist town when you were a teenager, you have a wealth of first-hand information from which you can draw. If you think there’s nothing around you to dramatize, you’re wrong. Whenever you’re with people, there’s plenty of drama just waiting to be put into a novel.
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