Writing About a Place You’ve Never Been To

googlemapsWant your character to be in a city or country that you’ve never been to? Take the time to do a bit of research, which should help you write with authority and conviction.

Naturally, the Internet is a great help, and so are some other sources listed below that you can use:

  • Use Google maps to have a look at the city, especially the street view function, which can help make writing about it easier.
  • Do an image search and look at a picture of the location.
  • Read recent travel guides and articles in magazines about the place.
  • Read about the country’s politics, government, religion and social issues.
  • View a cookbook and get a “taste” of the local cuisine. See if there is a grocery store, bakery or restaurant in your area so you really can get a taste of the local food. If there is, talk to the owner.
  • Talk to friends and relatives who have been there.
  • Try to find out what local pop hits there are and listen to them on YouTube.
  • Read a novel by someone from the region/country.

Once you’ve taken the time to do your research, write your story. If you’re practicing, just take a simple plot so you can concentrate on setting. Of course, comeback and let us know how you fared. Is it possible to convincingly write about an existing place that you’ve never been to?

And points to anyone who knows in what city the street-view image was taken from.



One thought on “Writing About a Place You’ve Never Been To

  1. Those are great tips!

    I usually try not to write about places I’ve never been to. I’ve read too many books where the locations are cobbled together from tourist-guide facts and movies. There was a novel by a very highly respected writer, whose name I can’t remember just now, not Roth but someone of his caliber, which was partially set in Helsinki — and he got most of it wrong. (And he’d even visited the city.) It was surreal to read.

    But it can done effectively, as well. Research, research, research 🙂

    I know where that shot is from! I’ll post a short URL that won’t give the game away to anyone else who wants to puzzle it out. http://goo.gl/maps/jgTSk

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