We all know setting is important to a story or novel. It can add atmosphere or sometimes even function closer to a character. I’m working on a short story that relates back to a specific time period and place. Except that my story is now in present day. My research started with the internet – doing what most likely other writers do as well – searching for answers as to the history of the place, landmarks, etc. In this instance, I looked at the historical buildings that still mark the area and was getting a sense of the place. My story moves back and forth through time – so I needed information on both the then place and the now place.
I’ve read numerous discussions about whether you need to visit the place or whether you can imagine it and create the details you need. I think both are valid. While I think you can imagine and write what you need (based on some research and the data available on computer these days), I find that visiting a place gives me much more if I can actually visit. Walking a place gives me a sense of its atmosphere that I can’t get from pictures. I know I could write something to create an atmosphere in my story but I love the idea of capturing what I sense when I am there. If I create a different atmosphere, I wonder what readers who have been there will think since we all bring our own experiences with us when we read.
For my story, I was able to drive through and visit the town. I hadn’t completed my research before I went so I found some things I didn’t expect. I also found some things I wouldn’t have seen or thought of for my story if I hadn’t done the research. In this instance, a combination worked best for my story. I realize that it won’t always be possible but I find that part of what I love about writing is learning something and exploring new places.
What’s your process? Do you try to visit places you include in your story? Do you only write about places you’ve been?