How to Describe a Location You’ve Never Visited – by Angela Ackerman…

on Writers Helping Writers:

One of the big decisions writers make is whether to choose a real location for the backdrop of their overall story or create one of their own imaginings. Crafting a world from scratch can be a lot of work (requiring a deep understanding of society, infrastructure, rules, governmental influence, and much more). But this avoids a problem associated with real-world locations: reader bias (when the reader’s own emotional ties to a real place influences their reading experience).

Imagine your character is living in an area that the reader grew up in. Even if you carefully researched the setting, maybe visited it yourself, the reality is that people and places will change over time. Stores close, schools are torn down, and social dynamics change, making safe neighborhoods unsafe or vice-versa. Landmarks might change and beloved sports teams move on. When readers discover you’re writing about a place they used to know, initially they’re excited. But if the details of your story don’t match what they remember, it causes a ripple in their experience, and they may lose faith in your storytelling ability.

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