I saw this tweet a while back and let it simmer. As a person who stays in his house most of the time, writing is my way of getting out and exploring the world. COVID has made most of us homebodies, and so it’s important to remember that you can write like a traveler without leaving your bedroom.
Let’s talk about how that works. Say for example, my next novel will take place in Tokyo. I’ve never been to Japan, so how would I ‘write the location’ in an authentic way? You’ll need the Internet to make this work, or access to your local library.
How It Works
- Start by Google’ing everything I can about the place I’m exploring. The history of Tokyo, using Google Maps and Youtube to take virtual tours. You can do all of this for free, but it might be more convenient to have a Gmail account, since it allows you to make custom maps or mark points of interest for later.
- Get curious – using Google Maps Streetview, I’ll look at random points and start wandering around. Use that link I showed you and then start moving around. What strikes your interest? What do you want to know more about? Find something cool, and then Google that to see what it is. As you can see from my example, I picked a spot in Tokyo, found an office building and looked it up to see what’s there. So far, it looks like a boring office building …
- Now we start using our imagination. Instead of a boring office building, it could be the location of a fight between the bad guys and the good guys. Or maybe the good guy uses the small store at the bottom of the building to buy food for the government witness he’s protecting from the bad guys. Maybe he uses the subway outside to escape danger. The possibilities are literally endless. Weaponize your imagination. It’s fun!
- As you explore, remain focused on your story. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have enough information to start writing your scenes. As you write, your brain will ask questions. Go back and repeat steps 1-3 again, to answer those questions. Sometimes you’ll realize that your scenes and imagination don’t match reality. That’s okay! Either you re-write the scene, or maybe your scene takes place in the future where the details you’ve imagined don’t exist yet!
So there you have it, four simple steps to write like a traveler. You don’t have to be rich, or well-traveled, to write like you’ve been there. All you need is your phone, your imagination, and some free time to explore.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with!