I’ve read several blog posts recently where authors have taken road trips in search of locations that mimic parts of their novels. They want to get a feel for the real environment. They want to awaken their senses so they can incorporate them in between the lines of what they write. One author recently went on a trip to a peach orchard because her characters pick peaches in her novel. Another walked the streets of a big city at night to experience the ‘fear’ factor. I, personally, have taken fencing classes and even trained for about an hour with a ‘knight’ from our local Renaissance Festival so I could get a true understanding of how difficult it is to wield a broadsword.
But what do you do if you’re not a traveler? How do you tap into your senses to write true to life fiction?
For me, I escape in books, especially ones that address what I’m working on at the moment in my own writing. If I’m working on a fight scene, I’ll consult George R.R. Martin or Raymond Feist. If I’m looking for YA romance, I’ll hit up Nicholas Sparks or Myra McEntire. If I want dystopian, who else to turn to than Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, and Stephanie DeStefano? As for fantasy? Without a doubt, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Cassandra Clare, Martha Wells, Julie Kagawa and J. K. Rowling hold the keys.
What about you? Where do you travel to find the umph needed to awaken your senses and write true to life settings?
- Forbes richest authors list 2012: James Patterson takes the crown (guardian.co.uk)
- Attention All Nicholas Sparks Fans (sebastiancoleauthor.com)
- Why You Should Attend Texas Renaissance Festival 2012 (lockergnome.com)
- Family Travels/Teach Me: Huntsville, AL Homes with Character (vintageindie.typepad.com)
17 thoughts on “Travel Tuesday”
Oh! I love that you practiced with a knight. Did you tell him why? Was he “in to” it? That’s soooo cool!
THe scariest thing I’ve done is run through a cornfield… the actual cornfield in my book… to see what it feels like (getting slapped in the face and stuff) My kids were sure we were going to be arrested.
I’m a lifelong traveler and I’ve found putting yourself in strange surroundings shakes up the senses like nothing else. 🙂
Usually the places I’ve traveled or lived work their way into my novels. One of my books took place in San Diego where I lived for two years.
When i can’t travel, I try to approximate. I couldn’t get to CA last year, but I did have a beach an hour from my house that I could drive to to approximate walking the sandbars there. 🙂
I enjoy going to the places for the same reasons others describe—to soak up that more complete sensory experience of sounds, smells, tastes…. It helps most of my two WIPs are set in places I’m familiar with. And even my one “other planet” is very Earth-like—with good reason. 😉
But the internet does make it a heck of a lot easier to “visit” those places I can’t get to easily. Now if the first works would make enough money for me to quit the day job and travel for research…. Sigh. I would be one happy writer. 🙂
When I can’t visit the places I want to write about, Google maps is great because you can now see the streets you want to write about at street level, which is very cool! Before the internet became what it is today, I would travel to the library or my local bookstore and check out travel books and brochures and maps. I’d study reference books about the places and try to imagine what it’s like. However, I find my writing about those places isn’t quite as good as actually going to the scene of my story where you can get the whole sensory experience of a place. 🙂
i don’t think anything will be written better directly because of a writer visiting a certain location in an attempt to gain more authenticity. however, i do believe that anything that makes a writer feel “better” about their writing will ultimately result in better writing. even if it means just watching a movie about a certain place.
in some stephen king stories, i think he did a lot of that and it worked out negatively because the story became crowded with unnecessary details upon details, as in “11/22/63,” his story centered around the kennedy assassination. there were way too many useless details about food, television, commercials, cars, etc. of that time period.
i’m working on a story that involves a few scenes on philadelphia subways, so last spring i spent a day riding the trains for two reasons. one, to know which trains are needed to get from one certain location to another and back again. and two, in order to get a good feel for how much time it takes to get from one place to another. sure, i might find that online in a schedule, but sometimes you have to change platforms and stations, and you don’t know for sure how much time that takes before getting to the next train arrival. also, you just never know what small touches you might see to add to the story.
in another scene, two characters spend time in a small pub. the two characters are ghosts, by the way. and when i was in the bar i wanted to use for the setting, someone had a dog. i thought it was cool that the bar owner let the customer bring his dog into the pub. then i realized that it was a seeing-eye dog. that added another element, for the dog to be able to detect the ghosts. then it also added that maybe the blind guy might also detect them and talk to them without realizing they were ghosts because he couldn’t see them anyway and didn’t know they weren’t physically there. other patrons thought he was just going nuts in his old age.
so, overall, it’s a good idea.
If it’s feasible to travel to the setting of my novel, then I’d like to be able to do that. If not, then I rely on the Internet and my research. Luckily, none of my settings have yet occurred in places I haven’t been. 🙂
Pictures and I used Google maps once to get the lay of the land. I don’t have the funds to travel, really, but I’ve experienced the big city before (Pittsburgh & DC). My parents are treating me to a cruise to Scotland, Ireland, and England next year. I hope to get inspired. 🙂
I love that you’ve done fencing! I think it helps to have been to the place where you set your story to get the feeling of it but you could cheat and make the place up 🙂
I haven’t done it yet, it’s kinda happened to me the other way round lol. I go somewhere and that place inspires a story 😉
But, I would definitely not be apposed to travelling for research. A friend of mine recently wrote a book about a woman who was a pole dancer. Of course, she had to attend pole dancing lessons. I’m not sure I could be THAT brave lol 😉
That would be AMAZING!
Don’t forget…you write fantasy. Anything can happen. Always, even if in dreams. 🙂
True that! 🙂
I’d be willing to go anywhere to see the actual landscape I was writing about, but since I decided to write about Hungary, that’s probably not going to happen. *lol*
Hey, you never know. Never say never.
I traveled to Petersville Alaska on a snow machine trip. Used that as a scene for my writing. I’m not sure it technically works, as I use all of Alaska as my backdrop when I write. (easier for me to write a story in Alaska than to fake a place i’ve not been to). I think when I get the chance to travel more.. i’ll be able to use more locations.. as it is, I have LOTS to use up here!
The Ren fair sounds wonderful, I went to one a long time a go, much fun!