View from the top of Mostar's old bridge
This is the last post in a series I’ve done on visiting the real-life locations your story is set in.
Last week I asked how well you thought you could write about a place you’ve never seen, and I gave nine reasons you should visit your setting if at all possible.
Today I’m giving you some tips I learned while on my own research trip in Bosnia. Some of these are things you can do without visiting a place – they just take a little more effort to search out.
Shopping in Mostar
Earlier this week, I asked how well you can describe a place you’ve never been to. In the comments, most people believed writers can describe real-life locations pretty well as long as their research is good enough.
In general, I think that’s probably right. But it doesn’t all come down to research. It’s also a matter of imagination – especially having the creativity to know which questions you need to ask about a location – and confidence.
A week ago I was in Bosnia doing research for the novel I’m writing. Being able to visit my setting in person was a joy and a treat. I know I’m lucky to be able to travel, and it’s a luxury not everyone has. Nor is it something everyone enjoys.
But whether your story is set in a foreign country or the next town over from where you live, these are some of the reasons it makes sense to visit to visit the place you’re writing about.
Research – love it or hate it, it’s vital for any well-written story. If, like my critique partner Suzanne Johnson, you write urban fantasy and paranormal romance, you might find your bookshelf filled with fun titles like The Complete Guide to the Undead. I’m jealous; my shelves are filled with war diaries.
As a contemporary romance writer, I get to research by asking real people about what their lives and jobs are like. Since I’m working on a series about women who work for a humanitarian organization, and I work for such an organization myself, I’m surrounded by friendly experts.
But there are times when I think of ideas for historicals and, if I’m honest, the thought of spending months upon months sifting through old newspaper articles and history books feels a little overwhelming. Writing a novel set in a completely different world would be so much easier if we had time machines and could talk to the people who actually lived there.
So, this week my gift to you is one day in a time machine.