I used to have this thinking that writing using a place that I’ve never been to would not seem genuine.
As a South-East Asian, I thought it would not be right for me to write fiction set in the European middle ages, or the wild west of America, of the feudal times in Japan.
I believed that I did not have the proper authority, knowledge or genuineness because I lived in a different place from the setting of my story.
I thought I could write better if I used places I am familiar with, like my hometown or home country.
I could not have been more wrong.
It’s not a matter of where you come from, but rather I now believe that it should be the knowledge you have of the place you are writing about – whether it be plucked out of history, or based off a real place.
How real or believable your setting or world would not only depend upon your actual knowledge of the place, but it could be improved by the research you made.
Yes, research. But studying about the place you are writing about, you greatly improve your descriptions, and you could vividly paint your setting in words for your readers.
For example, the closest experience I had with walking in a forest is when we had a tree-planting trip up the nearby mountain in our city. I could recall the experience, but there are things that I could not remember properly, most likely because I went there for a different reason, rather than research for writing purposes. Therefore, I was more concerned about where to place my foot, and catching my breath, rather than the scenery around me, the general atmosphere of the place, or the feeling or being in the forest in general. Could I write about a character who hiked in the woods scared and exhausted because he was being chased by something? Maybe. I could inject my personal experience of being disoriented, tired and confused. That would make it somewhat genuine. What about a character who was out in the forest for a leisurely stroll? I would probably struggle with this one. Would someone who have not stepped in a real forest have a better output than me? It is possible – specially from someone who has read a lot of things with the same or similar setting.
I have a different perspective now about writing setting. It matters not where you want your stories to be in, nor the place where you are or came from. Your knowledge of the place and experience matters more. Read up on similar stories that has a similar setting as yours. Watch a video of various scenery that you plan to use. Research is key.
I hope this has somehow been of help to you.
How do you write your general setting? Have you ever written a story where the place is foreign to you?
Thank you for reading, and have a nice day. If you want to support me, here are some ways: