While I’m apparently having Opinions on Writing: Number One Hot Tip for anyone writing about characters going any place, particularly any place real, is to use actual locations.
Like, even if you’re just opening up Google Street View and walking yourself down a foreign city’s road. Don’t just have characters going to “a department store”;1 have them going to the Sogo on Nathan Road, or the Myer in Bourke Street. If they’re going to a coffee shop, make it the Elements at the back of the grey import sporting goods store; you know the one, you can get that Earl Grey hot chocolate there that sounds weird but is actually amazing. Give your characters opinions on locations around them! Make them hate a particular restaurant, or have opinions on local public art, or memories associated with a particular park. If you’ve never been to a city? Go talk to or read things from people who have; blogs, Yelp reviews, whatever.
Even if you get some of the details slightly wrong, and you will,2 the benefits of making your characters and your world feel “lived in” are worth it.
- Unless you’re trying to disassociate the character from the space they’re in. Which maybe you are! But, if so, do it intentionally. [↩]
- I once wrote quite extensively about a building that, when I actually went to physically visit it several years later, I realised was about half a block back from where I’d assumed it to be, given Street View. I’m not sure anyone really noticed. [↩]