Three Reasons Why You Should Travel to Somewhere that Looks Like Your Story Setting

by | 13 October 2017 | Writing | 36 comments

Whether you’re writing a fantasy, dystopian, or sci fi story (or anything else), setting is important. And having a clear picture of what your setting is like is also very important.

Last week, my family took a trip to the gardens nearby us (nearby, as in 40 minutes away). We walked through them for a few hours, but the part that I most liked was the Japanese section.

Now, among the many, many story/character ideas I have an idea for one certain boy—Akio Hirai—and he’s a fantasy twist on Japanese. Walking through the Japanese gardens was amazing and I had so many thoughts and ideas running through my head. I could imagine Akio standing just over there, or crouched by the water, or fast asleep in that patch of shade under that tree.

{Akio’s aesthetic collage}

I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and I started scrawling down the inspirations and scenes and glimpses that were coming to me as I just looked around.

 

Obviously, sometimes it isn’t always possible to travel to the exact location of your story. (Interplanetary sci fi anyone? 😛 ) Travelling costs time and money, but don’t discount it right away.

If part of your story takes place in a forest, find a forest near you. So what if the forest in your story is in the middle of Europe and you live in the United States? Something just similar can still help you immensely.

Why bother though? You can just find pictures, right? True. But you can’t find everything in a picture. Actually going to someplace similar to your setting has many benefits.

1: You get to breathe your setting

It’s not just scrolling through pinterest and picking out a picture you like. It’s experiencing it for yourself. Walking through that city or garden is so much more inspiring than just staring at a screen. a) You actually get exercise and move around from your desk and b) you can immerse yourself into the story setting so much deeper.

Walking through the Japanese gardens, I could just see scenes of my story being played out around me. Scenes I didn’t even know existed (it’s only a character idea, not plotted or anything yet) acted out in front of my eyes as I frantically tried to scribble them onto the paper fast enough.

A faint breeze played fingers through his hair and rustled the leaves of the trimmed tree beside him.
Almost like a soft farewell.

 

2: It’s much easier to describe

Youtube is all very well but if you’ve been to the actual place your story is set, or a place like it, it’s 10000% easier to describe than if you’re just looking at pictures. Even better, while you’re at the place, grab a pencil and paper! Write a small description of a few different parts. I filled a page with just one sentence descriptions of the things I saw.

Paths wound between bushes—grey stone beside leaves as red as the sunset.

You can stare at the trees and think of all the words you’d use to describe how it feels when you brush against it. Or stand by the waterfall and close your eyes and come up with the phrases and words to convey how powerful the crashing of water sounded from so close. There is so much more depth that can come out through your writing when you’ve experienced it for yourself.

 

3: You can show it more realistically

Pictures can be deceiving—they don’t show you everything there is to a city or a garden or a farm. But being there in person you can see the glorious details and the gritty.

The city isn’t just towering buildings—there’s small houses with tiny, cramped backyards that aren’t big enough to have a picnic in. The garden isn’t just perfect in every way—people have to weed it, and prune it, and water it.

Judging off of pictures and photos, sure you can write a spooky forest. But the pictures don’t give you how beautiful the same forest looks at sunrise with the mist twining about the branches and sparkling drops of golden dew. If you’ve actually been there, you can show more than just one aspect. You can really delve into the setting and do it justice.

A trellis dripped with purple blossoms beneath the steady hum of bees.

And added onto all that, you get to make memories. You can act out your story. You can just sit and watch and listen and enjoy.

 

Have you ever been to a place that looks like your story setting? What methods do you have for researching your storyworld? Comment, and let’s chat!

Jane Maree

Jane Maree

Jane Maree is an Adventurer—exploring the endless wonders of God’s beautiful creation. She started writing by accident, but since the very beginning has loved the enchantment of words on paper. If you say anything about pizza, superheroes, books, or any of her many, many fandoms, she’ll come at the double. Aside from crafting worlds using only twenty-six letters, she is a passionate Jesus-lover, freelance editor, self-trained martial artist, songwriter, and musician. In her spare time, she's often off on random adventures in the name of story research. She seeks to inspire her readers to step out and become the heroes of hope this world needs.

36 Comments

  1. Sarah

    Aw man, does this mean I need to go to Sydney?

    …I’m not sure if I’ll be able to survive that. o-o

    Heh, but in all seriousness, this was a great post! I don’t do it often, but I’ve had multiple instances where going outside and just taking a little adventure around the property really helped me with figuring stuff out for my story ^-^ (and even getting a few completely new story ideas xD).

    It’s awesome thing to do and I love it heaps.

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Maybe? Who knows. xD But it might help with knowing your setting better, if you ever get a chance to…

      Thank you! And yes, that’s always a good thing to do. *nodnod*

      Reply
  2. J.A.Penrose

    Wow! Some beautiful descriptions there Jane, and I love the idea of a fantasy-Japan. Nature-wise, it is a very fantasy-styled place.
    The closest I’ve been to being at a place similar to one of my own settings was in a really cool forest in Barrington Tops. That was cool and very similar to a place I’ve been writing.
    Great post!

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Thank you! I really had a lot of fun experimenting with different fantasy twists on Japanese settings.
      That’s really cool though, and even though it’s not the exact setting (fantasy makes that difficult 😛 ) it can still be inspiring.

      Reply
  3. Hope Ann

    A pity places like most of my story settings don’t exist. XD I have seen some places that seem like they are begging for a story to take place in them. I store them up in my memory to use later on when I need them, be it weather or clouds or an actual place.

    Reply
    • Jenna

      ugh! i know! looks like i’ll just have to visit my fantasy worlds in my imagination…

      Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Haha yes that is a problem. xD Still, just a forest could be similar to Erathrane.
      That’s a really good idea though–recording random weather or just tiny little snippets of something to weave in another element of reality into the setting.

      Reply
  4. Quinley

    This is an awesome post, Jane!:)
    And I love your idea of being able to breath and feel your story’s setting, instead of just looking at pictures.
    -Quinley

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Visiting the actual place, or a place similar, has really helped me, and also really inspired me. It’s a really fun experience! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Jenna

    thanks for your post! i would give anything to visit one of my story settings! like horse farms in Kentucky, castles in Scotland, and more.

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      You’re welcome! Going to a castle would be so epic–do you mind if I join you? 😛

      Reply
      • Jenn

        not at all!!!! lemme just crack open my piggy bank 😉

        Reply
        • Jane Maree

          Sweet, I’ll pack my bags then. XD

          Reply
  6. Anna C. S.

    SO TRUE! I have gotten so much inspiration from getting outside and going new places…
    Great post Jane! <3

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      It’s so easy to just spend all day sitting inside reading or at a computer, but God has given us such a well of inspiration outside if we’ll only look at it.
      Thank you for your comment, Anna!

      Reply
  7. Jenna

    btw, jane, saw on your bio that you’re a music lover. me too! do you have favorite bands/types of music? i love my cd by I Am They. *gasps* YOU WRITE SONGS TOO! girl, there’s nothin’ you can’t do. 😉

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Yes I am! That’s so cool that you like music too. 😀 I really love The Fretless as folk-y instrumental feel, and I also really like Peter Hollens and Taylor Davis among others. Christian music-wise I really like Bel Thomson and Sons of Korah. And a bunch more. (I could talk about music all day xD)
      Awh you’re so sweet. Thank you. <3 There is plenty I can't do, but I do like trying my hand at all sorts of different things.

      Reply
      • Jenna

        i heard Sons of Korah a couple years ago and liked it too!

        Reply
        • Jane Maree

          Oh cool! Normally when I mention them people haven’t heard them before, so that’s so epic! 😀

          Reply
          • Jenna

            yeah, especially when we live in different countries. do they have CDs?

            Reply
            • Jane Maree

              Yes they have CDs. I have Light of Life in a physical CD and it has some of my favourite songs of theirs on it.

              Reply
              • Brie Donning

                Sons of Korah! I’m a big fan of them. I’ll go to every concert they have in Canberra and I think we have all their CDs. (Most of which we owned before I cared about music.)

                Reply
                • Jane Maree

                  Ooh cool! That would be so epic to go to an actual concert and see them play. *shameless fangirling*

                  Reply
  8. Jake T.

    Awesome post, Jane! I can only imagine what it would be like to visit a place like my stories setting. EEP! it would be absolutely glorious XD

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Thank you! It is absolutely glorious. 😛 If it’s ever at all possible, I totally recommend it.

      Reply
  9. Aposhipolepo

    Sounds like a very interesting story idea.
    I am wondering if any particular place you have been inspired Dragon Island.
    All of my ideas are very different in appearance to the real world.

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to writing it some day. 🙂

      Ooh well, part of it was inspired by a Beach Camp at the beginning of this year (TMPC camp) and a distant memory of another place in a town an hour or so away from me. It keeps gaining little details that I pick up from a couple of different places.

      Hehe that is a slight problem, then. 😛

      Reply
      • Jenna

        just thought i’d let you know that i squealed with excitement when i read about your book ideas. 🙂

        Reply
        • Jane Maree

          Aww that’s so cool, thank you, Jenna! 😀

          Reply
  10. Joey Trout

    I loved this post, Jane, although I have no idea when I shall end up in a place that is like my setting XD

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Thanks!
      Well, keep your eyes open and you never know what might catch your fancy. I have a lot of settings that are made up of little snippets of lots of different places combined. 😛

      Reply
  11. Brie Donning

    I love doing this. The forest bits are pretty easy. Any bushwalk in a forest (especially rainforest) is a chance to pretend I’m in the border forest.
    The towns are harder to get to though, and steampunk italian port cities just doesn’t happen. But I can get the feel of being by the water.

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Yes, same! I love bush walking and ridge walking because there’s so many inspirational things to see.

      True, true. I can see your point there. xD It’s hard with those. But getting the feel even with small snippets of real life is really cool! 😀

      Reply
  12. MiddleEarthMusician

    Hey! Sorry I’m late. :-Z We’ve been SUPER busy of late. I LOVE THIS POST!!! That’s awesome. Your idea sounds really cool. Love the aesthetic! I think you’re totally right about going to places you envision your story in. I’m basing Mission: Metal off of downtown where I live, and it really helps with envisioning scenes. 🙂 Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!! XD

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      No worries, life is busy. 🙂
      Thank you!! That’s so cool to hear. ^-^
      Ooh cool, that’s really handy. Particularly since it’s close to you, too.

      Reply

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