A friend once wrote a story set in Barrow, Alaska, yet her descriptions of the school were so generic, I could have picked up that school and plopped it on the beach in Florida and the story wouldn’t have changed. Where we are in a story matters.
Over the years, I’ve found some tools that help me with settings that are not where I am.
Top 5 Tools for Setting
2. Google Earth. Our Indian friend once showed us on Google Maps his hometown in the foothills of the Himalayas. The steep terrain made the software fun to play with as we changed perspectives and moved around his village.
3. National Geographic Maps site, especially the Interactive Maps. This colorful mapping system lets you overlay all sorts of data. It’s good for a general reminder of terrain, temperatures, population, etc. For example, if you zoom in on Hawaii, you can see where the densest populations lies and decide if you want your story set in the middle of a low-population island or in the middle of Honolulu.
4. Sensory Details Worksheet. What you see, hear, smell, touch and taste can bring a story to life. Many people stick with visual details, because they are visual learners. Try to push yourself to include more details by creating a simple worksheet for yourself. Down the side of a page, write the five senses: See, Hear, Taste, Touch, Smell. Now close your eyes and put yourself in the situation of your story. Force yourself to try to write at least three details for each sense, being as specific as possible. Not just that you see a dog, but you see a German Shepherd with a red collar. When you write, use this as a reference to choose the best details, or to inspire new details. It will make your writing come alive. Here’s more on writing with rich sensory details.