author, creative writing, writing

4 Reasons to Visit your Novel’s Location

Good morning writers and a happy Sunday to you. I am a bit behind with this weeks post and have usually written and posted it a few hours earlier. However, I am sleepy and a little poorly, so I am only just getting around to it.

Today, I’d like to focus on reasons you should visit the location in which your novel is set. Yesterday, I went to London with the sole purpose of researching the areas my character’s live, work and meet their fate…I visited two years ago, when I was in the early stages of planning my novel. I had decided little more than it was to begin with a murder set in Battersea Park. Since that first visit I have finished my first draft and am set to begin editing. I decided not only to revisit Battersea Park, but also some new areas that had cropped up during my writing.

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It was amazing! Almost surreal to see all the locations that had been in my mind over the past two years.

Before I go into it, I’d like to state that I understand this isn’t always possible. In fact, I’d like to make the following list:

Reasons you May Not Be Able to visit your Novel’s Setting

1. It’s Not A Real Place
Many of you will have created a world for your story and therefore you can’t just hop on over to see what it’s like. If possible though, visit a location similar. If you’re world is set amongst forests, go to a forest. Amongst mountains? Get on your hiking boots!

2. It’s Too Far Away
I don’t expect everyone to be able to cross their country, or even go to a different country all together, if that’s the case. I am lucky to live a couple of hours away from London, you may not have the luxury of being so close to your setting. Try watching films or TV shows set in these areas instead.

3. It’s Set in the Past/Future
Perhaps you are within easy reach of your location, but your particular story is set in the distant past…or the distant future, and therefore doesn’t look how it does in your novel. You may find museums can help with this, or again, watching TV and film.


So, moving on to the reasons why, if you can visit your novel’s location, you should.

1. The Senses
We all know the importance of using the five senses when writing a novel. What better way to take note of what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch in a place than by actually being there? For example, I knew that in Battersea Park you’d here people talking, dogs barking, children playing and the distant rumble of the cars. I didn’t realise, until yesterday, that you can ALWAYS here an aeroplane, always smell the dirt…

2. Putting Yourself into Your Character’s Shoes
Taking yourself to the place in which your characters’ stories have developed is an amazing feeling and truly makes you feel close to them. Walk around and observe things with their mindset. You’re essentially almost pretending to be them, to get a feel of their surroundings and how they react to them.

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3. Inspiration Strikes
It’s amazing how much I managed to write just from being in these locations. I had so much inspiration for beautiful descriptions, interesting conversations…lines I would never have come up with sat in my living room at home. I can’t wait to get editing and use my new inspiration to add real feeling and authenticity to my story.

4. Writing Away from Home
I wrote a post before about places to write that aren’t home, and for me, writing out and about leaves me free from the distractions of being surrounded by the mess I need to tidy, the studying I need to do, the TV I want to watch. After many hours of walking around, making notes, I grabbed a cup of tea, sat by a window and wrote for hours.

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Whether you’ve visited your location, are planning to, or simply can’t I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment below with your suggestions, questions or advice!

Until then,
Keep writing,
M
x

 

17 thoughts on “4 Reasons to Visit your Novel’s Location”

  1. Most of my settings are a combination of places I remember and ones I invent. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of engaging the senses when it comes to location–sometimes so easily forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post. I would add, if you visited a place some while ago remember that places change. Places I visited on vacation several years ago may not look the same. Buildings may have been erected or torn down, etc. If I’m describing an event in London on Oct. 8, 2017 based on my memory of it from April 4, 1992, I’m going to get it wrong. And any readers familiar with Oct 2017 London are going to call me on it.

    At least we are fortunate to have the Internet at our fingertips. If we can’t get to a place, we can usually find a lot of pictures online. You can also set up a Pinterest account if you don’t have one to keep a file of locations in your story, for reference as you’re writing. But, as you say, having been there physically recently will make the images even more useful.

    – Deandra

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The world I’ve created is set in a fantasy land that I made up, so I don’t have the oppurtunity to go there, but I’ve also took inspiration from places I’ve been. My favourite is a stony beach I’ve always walked the dogs at! It fit so well in my story and although not completely identical, whenever I go there, my mind gets bombarded with ideas and inspiration!
    Again, another wonderful post, and good luck with that editing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds lovely ❀ I really do love the potential of a fictional world. You can, within reason, have it anyway you choose and there's a lot of power there. Though of course a lot of pressure to make the place feel real for the reader. Sounds like you take your inspiration beautifully ❀

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  4. I think a lot of it depends on how deep a role setting plays in your work. It’s one thing if it is just a location for things to happen, but if your story takes place in, say, London or Paris because it is intrinsically matched to something about that place, you have to work really hard to get it right. It requires more than just a visit, I think. Books that use history, culture, or location-based mystery are very susceptible to this weakness. Dan Brown does a decent job of it, but he takes like four years to write a book, most of it research. On the other hand, I recently gave up trying to read “The Historian.” In that book, almost every chapter starts with a long-winded description of some European location, however the descriptions never seem to get beyond the basic details that can be found in a travel guide–this is the popular historical site, this is a typical meal, etc…It never felt like the author actually knew the cultures she was writing about. I agree that you should visit the location of your story (I would even argue that for a novel, you must visit your location, if you have any hope of authenticity). Once you start drawing history into the mix, though, you should probably do a lot of research in addition to the visit.

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  5. Love this! I can’t visit my location because it is a fiction town, but it’s one surrounded by a forest, so anytime I’m in nature, I feel inspired. I can totally relate to your advice about using the five senses, and I’m glad to hear that being in London helped you to hone that skill. I’m sure that knowing about the sound of the plane and scent of the dirt will do nothing but add a great authenticity to your story. Good luck with your editing. So jealous that you got to head out and write for a whole day in a quiet, inspiring, new place. Sounds awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I am beyond excited to read about your world, because I love forests and can only imagine that all your time spent gathering inspiration from nature has helped you write beautiful descriptions. ❀ Yes, getting out and being able to dedicate the day to writing was amazing! Hope your edits are going well too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I grew up in my novel’s setting and still live close by – although it’s a place I don’t visit regularly. I went through the process of visiting specific locations a while back – which was really helpful.
    I was delighted this week to find all the photos on my laptop that I’d taken at the time. I thought I’d lost them in a computer glitch, but seeing them again brought it freshly back.

    Liked by 1 person

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