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Is there a better way? Need advice. (1 Viewer)

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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Is there a better way? I need advice.

Dictionary of Real People and Places in Fiction 1st Edition (purchased this book today)

So I have been so frustrated that I cannot observe real people and places that I decided to purchase this book for research. My question is how would you approach description if you can't go to a library? I only leave the house to go to my grandmother's and this house which is a modest home. I can't interact properly with people. In the public domain there are many novels. This book is to research and maybe take concrete descriptions and rewrite them.

Unfortunately, I had no other choice. If you were me trying to describe in stories and have no books to borrow or lack the guidance to describe from a picture. What would you do? I tried gogglemap street view. I have tried landmarks. I don't know if I am approaching it the right way. I usually need instructions. To journal settings is not possible since I don't go to places often.

Also, I purchased the above book. I am also considering this book.

Eight Strategies For Writing Innovative Settings (Write with Impact) (Volume 1)

Supposedly, someone with an mfa wrote it but it is only 76 pages. The preview doesn't look terrible. It suggests looking at home renovation magazines and also looking up floor planning to create the setting for the story.
 
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Hector

Senior Member
I'm not sure I get the question. What do you want to describe? Why can't you leave your house?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
My first blush suggestion would be to pick settings which are well documented. You can learn a lot about a place from travel guides and reviews, whether it's a city, public building, restaurant, tourist area, or a region of a country or city.

A couple of months ago I was looking for a location to set a major piece of business for my WIP. I decided a city with access to populated jungle fit my requirements, so I got on Google maps and starting scrolling around the Amazon rainforest. I came across the city of Manaus (in Brazil), which is a city of 2 million plus right in the middle of the rainforest. The city is accessed almost exclusively by air and the river. Perfect spot. So I picked Manaus for my location.

The first thing I did was read the history of Manaus, which I found fascinating. Then I zoomed in with Google maps to "drive around" the city to get a feel for it. From that step, I picked three main locations in the city to focus on for my story. I know where the well-to-do live, the business and shopping districts, the shantytown areas (where you don't want to be wandering if you don't live there). I spent a lot of time reading about and looking at photos of the opera house there, which is considered one of the most beautiful on Earth. I didn't even use it in the story, but it was worth knowing about.

Then I found travel sites and read about tourist and visitors experiences. That gave me information about other areas of the city and the surrounding area to investigate. There is a nice beach on the west side of the city I decided to use in one scene. I found a hotel near the beach, "changed the names to protect the innocent" ;-), and used it as another setting. An abandoned rubber factory/warehouse became the site for my conflict.

I found out that a tributary to the Amazon which borders the west side of the city has a plethora of restaurants, bars, and B&B like residences which are only accessible by boat. While I found that interesting, and spent a lot of time looking at them and reading about them (some have their own web sites), I decided there was nothing about them that fit my story needs.

In all, I paused writing and spent three or four evenings reading about and exploring the city.

A week or so before that, I spent a couple of hours researching locations in London. I needed to know the area a particular type of sketchy business has a presence, and I wanted a location for an upscale private residence. For the residence, I went to a UK real estate site, entered the particulars for the type of place I wanted to use, and let it show me homes on the market. I picked one, read a bit about the area, and I was ready to go. There, I enjoyed the advantage of having visited London a few times. Now that I think of it, I did the same thing with Manaus to pick a villa for the bad guys, but decided to center all my action on the factory, so never used the information I learned about upscale private homes ... other a couple of lines about why my characters didn't want to "beard the lions in their den".

I think the most important part of this for you is the availability of travel guides and reviews. They let you see locations through the words of people who have been there and wished to share their experience. Build on what they tell you.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
There is so much available to us through television and streaming services like Netflix. We can get a regular view of settings that are very realistic. For example:

Downton Abbey gives a look at English country life.
The Crown lets us see the Royal's in their home.
Friends set is a typical New York apartment.
House of Cards gives us a view of Washington.
Amy in Paris is just like being in Paris.
Reality shows like Real Housewives let us see the inside of real people's homes.
Even Survivor is set in the jungle.

I would start by watching a regular show and journaling it. Then I'd change it up slightly to make it my own.

Is there a setting or place that you already have in mind for your next piece?

 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
You can also use google maps.
* Enter the location you're interested in.
* Click the little yellow dude in the bottom right corner.
<blue lines will appear>
* Click on a blue line to get a street view.
<from there you can pan and move about>
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Thanks vranger for trying to help me with answering this question. I do have 2 travel guides at home. One for Canada and Germany. I can sign up to kindle unlimited. I thought about that because it has travel guides available. So that would solve that problem using your method.

I also found a book that mentions that I need to look for pictures of specific objects I could describe to be able to depict these. Which I admit could help. That would lend some detail to the description when I change the words. I am not very visual since I can't imagine objects nor put it to words. For example in the workshop I was sort stumped on how to write a description of a tree stump. The closest book I have found on describing pictures is this:
[h=1]The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction[/h]
I feel embarrassed that I cannot describe a tree stump. It takes me more than one attempt. Maybe I need questions to guide me to the answers? I am trying everything I can.

 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
There is so much available to us through television and streaming services like Netflix. We can get a regular view of settings that are very realistic. For example:

Downton Abbey gives a look at English country life.
The Crown lets us see the Royal's in their home.
Friends set is a typical New York apartment.
House of Cards gives us a view of Washington.
Amy in Paris is just like being in Paris.
Reality shows like Real Housewives let us see the inside of real people's homes.
Even Survivor is set in the jungle.

I would start by watching a regular show and journaling it. Then I'd change it up slightly to make it my own.

Is there a setting or place that you already have in mind for your next piece?

You can also use google maps.
* Enter the location you're interested in.
* Click the little yellow dude in the bottom right corner.
<blue lines will appear>
* Click on a blue line to get a street view.
<from there you can pan and move about>
Thanks everyone I will try it again when I return home. I have an idea that I want written which I won't mention it yet. I appreciate the approaches given so far. I like to hear different takes from people. I will use the travel guides I have so far and experiment with that.

I just found out my kindle fire 10(version and released in year two-thousand eighteen) isn't compatible with netflix. When my computer returns from the repair shop I will journal from movies or series using a smart tv at home. My mom uses that a lot.

To Taylor: I want to try my hand at fantasy. One I will write based on a dream (a gargoyle becomes friends with a human and a whole army is after them to rescue the human who is only a child who becomes a friend with a monster- the gargoyle but this is just the beginning and I have not written it). So far I have an idea of writing a short story about a person that hides his identity with the help of robots. (the robot operates people for free and to hide the identity of a person). I haven't decided if a woman or a man yet. That would drastically change the plot. About the setting I dont know yet. Ideally a manufacturing factory or a house. A gothic house or a castle that would have gargoyles for the other story. Another story could take place in a New York city type of setting which is pure science fiction. I won't mention it since I want to surprise people when I workshop it here.

To Indianroads: I appreciate you insisting I use google maps. I think I lack imagination to describe a picture. I will try a guide that I mentioned to see how well I can do using this method: The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction.

I am not very expressive with description.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Thanks vranger for trying to help me with answering this question. I do have 2 travel guides at home. One for Canada and Germany. I can sign up to kindle unlimited. I thought about that because it has travel guides available. So that would solve that problem using your method.

You don't need to purchase travel guides. It's all available on web sites for free, with better and more up-to-date information. You'll find much more material about a location on a web site than you will in a purchased travel guide.

Use places like Yelp to read reviews. Google things like "local cuisine in xxxxx" to drill down for more detailed information. I also did that for Manaus, and got information for a couple of meals and a drinking session.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
To Taylor: I want to try my hand at fantasy. One I will write based on a dream (a gargoyle becomes friends with a human and a whole army is after them to rescue the human who is only a child who becomes a friend with a monster- the gargoyle but this is just the beginning and I have not written it). So far I have an idea of writing a short story about a person that hides his identity with the help of robots. (the robot operates people for free and to hide the identity of a person). I haven't decided if a woman or a man yet. That would drastically change the plot. About the setting I dont know yet. Ideally a manufacturing factory or a house. A gothic house or a castle that would have gargoyles for the other story. Another story could take place in a New York city type of setting which is pure science fiction. I won't mention it since I want to surprise people when I workshop it here.

I am not very expressive with description.

Based on your great skill of describing things on this forum, I am certain you can be very expressive with description.

Can I make a suggestion? What about if you pick New York City as an exercise. My WIP is in NYC and there is tons of stuff out there to use for reference. Try describing Times Square and post it here so we can provide some feedback...if you like. It could be fun!!


Try Vranger's Idea of tourist sites:

https://freetoursbyfoot.com/things-to-do-in-times-square/


Try Indianroad's idea of Googlemaps Street View:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Times+Square/@40.7579324,-73.9856418,3a,75y,80h,110t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipN5RvjriQ7K5-zLKAWmWmeow9spNzEctsxsI7Eh!2e10!3e11!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipN5RvjriQ7K5-zLKAWmWmeow9spNzEctsxsI7Eh%3Dw203-h100-k-no-pi-20-ya75.95329-ro-0-fo100!7i11700!8i5850!4m7!3m6!1s0x89c25855c6480299:0x55194ec5a1ae072e!8m2!3d40.7579747!4d-73.9855426!14m1!1BCgIgARICCAI


If you have access, try using Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u68EWmtKZw0
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Thanks, that's an extremely helpful post because you posted links. I will give it a try to describe new york. Thanks for your help. When I'm ready I will post it on the forum boards. If not here I will post it in the workshop. Give me some time, and I will consult and visit all the web links. I also have to do something that is pending so I might have to log off at some point to do that. I appreciate it.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I wrote 1500 words today. I will incorporate description later since its late and I ran out of time. I am planning to put it in the workshop. Thanks Taylor.
 
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