Researching Your Setting

It’s important to know everything there is to know about your setting, should you choose to use a real location. Readers and frequenters of your chosen region will definitely have something to say if there is something amiss, regardless of its relevance to the plot. Making a blunder can be easily avoided by doing thorough research before writing, and by taking note of the following strategies.

  • Physical reference. When hammering out the details of your physical location its best to start off by looking at the bigger picture. Maps and encyclopaedia articles are great for general research, and most can be found online or in larger libraries. After you’ve become familiar with the area as a whole, take your focus beyond the topographical and start on the smaller details. Wildlife, environment and architecture are good jumping off points for research – and don’t forget to visit your setting if possible! There is no better research than seeing a place firsthand.
  • Children’s writing. A lot of writers, particularly in historical fiction, recommend reading through children’s books that are based around the location and period you have chosen for your novel. These books give the most basic and overall insight into that setting, while also helping to understand what your character’s lives may have been like as children, and ultimately leading to greater character development.
  • Seek out social histories. When researching your novel, try to focus on any reference books that have the title ‘A Social History of…’, ‘A Life in the Times’ etc, as these will be the books that provide details not just of landscape but of what it was like to actually live day to day within any one setting.
  • One thing at a time. When writing on a time or place that is unfamiliar to you, it can feel as if there are too many angles to consider. Comprise  a list of all the things you need to research, be it weather, architecture, fashion, or events, and focus on one each day.  Try not to blur these topics as you come across them, but stay within the structure you have set out for yourself.

Next week we’ll be covering Writing and Dialogue Tags, so we hope to see you then. Have a great weekend!

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