Location, Location, Location

As I sit here tapping away on my beloved keyboard designed in California but assembled in China, at my desk crafted from recycled Indonesian wood, purchased in Tokyo and transported on a Danish cargo ship to London - I am reminded of how small our world really is.  Over the weekend, I managed to tap out 3k words before coming to a slight bump in the WIP road. That is, I needed some quick research on the location of my MC's love interest. Thank you, my dear muse - for reminding me of my friends living in far flung destinations.  

Researching where our characters live, work, play could be easier if you lived in that same city or at least the very country your novel is based.   What happens when you are writing about cities that you do not live in?  I can't even fathom the research required for historical romance or sci-fi settings, hats off to anyone who is writing in magical locations that exists only in their heads.  How well do you know your characters neighbourhood?  

I knew exactly where to move my MC's love interest.  Away from her of course, for a short period at least.  My problem was, although I'd visited the city previously, time has marched on and the cityscape, politics, economy, places to shop, eat has changed.   I 'googled' fearlessly, searching for a home for my love interest...before the 'head slap' moment, you know that mental 'what the blazes am I doing?'   Yes, I remembered my friends who still in live in the far flung city.  Silly girl.  Why didn't I think of them in the first place?   The haze...of writing alone.  You forget close ones can help you.  I shot off a flurry of fruitful emails to friends, and hey, presto...I'm rearing to delve back into my WIP.   Now, back to typing away on my Californian-Chinese keyboard, drinking African grown coffee, sipping French water, and gazing out over my very English garden....we are such a global village aren't we?

How do you research your characters locations?

A/N:  Aside from personal experience,  here's a few places I usually hit when researching locations - the Information Super Highway, Libraries, Twitter,  - do you have any favourite sources for research?  


  1. Nice I also watch a lot of tv and delve into pop culture if I want to be that daring.

  2. this is where crit partners and beta's come in so helpful! one of my characters was from england (but in a previous life was from australia) - so writing about places i'd never been was tricky. thankfully i have a friend that's lived abroad in many countries who helped me out.

  3. Joanna - good point, TV & film are great sources. We have to look at other media. Thank you! Go on, be daring! ;)

    Amie B - ah excellent - thanks so much for pointing out crit partners and betas. Good friends are invaluable souls aren't they? ;)

  4. I do the same thing--if I have friends there, I ask them tons of questions. If it's a made up place, then I spend a lot of time scribbling in my journal to come up with all the details I need to make it real.

  5. Most if not all of my locations are either places I've been to, or compilations of characteristics of a few different places, with which I create a new locale. I've used the internet for specifics in a few cases, but it's mostly my own vision I bring to the page.

  6. Too funny about posting similar topics. Google is my first stop. I usually write about places I've been along with worlds I make up in my head.
    Good luck!

  7. I hate research, hate hate hate. I think it's why I'm putting off really delving into the sequel of my WiP - there's going to be a lot involved. For the current one, I never mention where they are. I give settings - talk about the beach, the small upscale college town, and a mild winter, but no actual location. So far I've not had one beta or crit partner comment on the lack of actual town/state name, so I guess it works.

  8. I Google images of the place to get a feel for it!

  9. I've been lucky that my crit partner is from Alaska, and so far, I've been to all the places I've used for setting. If not, I'd probably use Google.

  10. So far I haven't written about any location I'm unfamiliar with, but I have an outline for a novel set in Italy. What I REALLY want to do is go there for 3 months and write it, but somehow I don't think that will happen.

  11. I try to research,but sometimes you just gotta make it up ... it is fiction afterall.

  12. I just finished a project that takes place in 1941. The girl gets a car and I typed in 1941 cars to google image and picked one that suited her. In two minutes, I was back to writing. I have no idea what I did before the internet.

  13. I tend to write about places I know, but if I can't then I'm all about Google Maps - street view and satellite! They rock!

  14. Wow, what I wouldn't be able to do without the internet for research! Living in Canada, pretty much every thing I write takes place elsewhere, so I can appreciate your location conundrum Talei! LOL

  15. One of the boons of writing epic fantasy is the fact that the world is located inside my head, as are all necessary references materials. I'm not sure what my process will be if I write something set on Earth.

  16. Not being a writer I do not have to worry about that; I can just pick up any old National Geographic and enjoy. I know that there are research companies that gather information for authors, and independent researchers that do the same, but that is probably expensive.
    What a thrill it would be to go to the places that you need to learn about(providing the locales were exciting, lovely, and romantic, oh yes, reasonably safe). You would find what you need and probably have experiences lending creative ideas for even more writings.

  17. Great post. I found your blog on Lola's site. I try to go to the location if at all possible. You can't use all of your senses with google. But if not asking a friend who lives there is a great idea. If I can't it's fun to go to google earth and zoom in on the locations. Look around at the hot spots and see what people are photographing. Look at the chamber of commerce web sites, etc...

  18. I'm lucky in that I've lived a lot of places and visited many more. Thus, so far I've only used places I've been in my WiPs. (Dude, I agree...people who create entire worlds! Mind boggling.)

    And, I'm with Tara, I HATE research. Hatessss it. (it's boring and I'm lazy about boring things)

    But you are right, it IS a small world, and as bloggers it feels even smaller. :) In a good way. I have friends from everywhere, should I need help on a location. That's pretty freaking fabulous, yes?


  19. I write SF/Fantasy most of the time, so my worlds are completely in my head. It can get a little confusing sometimes. Sometimes I'll base certain cities/sites on places that really do exist on Earth, and then I have to do research--not my favorite activity, but it can certainly pay off.

  20. Thanks everyone for dropping by and for such wonderful comments - I'm taking notes! ;)

    Meredith - I love that you scribble in a journal too! I always carry a notebook with me.

    Joanne -' Compilations of different places' - love that. I admire anyone who can create locations!

    Christine - I'm glad I'm not the only one stuck on research, but I want to know what we did before google? ;)

    Tara - Sounds like a great location -I'd like a place near the beach with mild winters! Good luck with your sequel. ;)

    Kerri - we love google! I think its at the top of all writers online toolboxes.

    Terry - so lucky - Alaska looks beautiful!!!

    KarenG - I'm hearing you on the 3 month writing break. Would love to do that.

    Quinn - quite right my dear, we must remember it is fiction!! Unleash the tethered imagination!

    Joelene - that fab. I like that idea, will do that for inspiration!

    Talli - I just did another *mental slap* google streetview! Perfect. thank you dear lady.

    Nathalie - thanks! I'm so glad I'm not alone on this one. ;)

    Kelly - hats off to you, I'm in awe of writers who can create other worlds away from our dear planet. ;)

    Mya - independent researchers, I should put that on my list to google! ;) And oh yes, first choice (for me) is to experience location, live, breath, sleep there.

    Melissa - I agree, I would love to go in person. *deep sigh* for now,though - Google earth can take me there.

    Lola - it is pretty freaking fabulous, yes!! Blogger friends make the writing world so much easier to navigate. ;)

    Golden Eagle - agreed! I love learning about new places too so I don't mind the research, its just the juggling of time to get there. ;)

  21. The Internet is SUCH a saving grace for me when it comes to location. Right now, it's a bit easier since I'm writing a novel set in my home state of Nebraska, but as it is in the 1940s, I've got quite a bit of research to do. Good thing I love it!

  22. So far I haven't needed to research a location, but this is a great post. I'm bookmarking it, in case I ever need it! :-)


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