Researching Settings for Your Stories

Dana makes a valid point (she typically does). Meyers spends a lot of time describing Forks as wet, green, and moist. She also describes the beach on the reservation. It’s pretty easy to envision, even though I’ve never been to the West Coast.

But Italy gets no description–neither coming nor going.

Maybe Stephanie Meyers has never been to Italy. Well, I’ve never been to Jerusalem, either, but I take a shot at describing it.

An hour later, Kalyn’s face was pressed to the car window, and she looked in awe as the walls of Jerusalem came into view—alight in the darkness.

The car stopped in front of a large, six-story building in the Old City. It looked like many of the other buildings surrounding it, with a beige stone exterior and arched windows with small balconies. There was a pointed crenelation around the top which had a decided Arab influence. [I based this description on a picture of a hostel in the Old City.]

A few days later, Joshua takes her to the Dome of the Rock:

Pictures also didn’t do justice to its beautiful shade of cobalt blue, or the intricate patterns of yellow and white and lavender flowers set between the blue tiles. It was so complex and busy, it almost made Kalyn dizzy looking at it.

…[T]they removed their shoes at the door and went inside the cool, dark building.

Joshua went to the railing—which surrounded the exposed rock—and knelt beside it. Kalyn copied him. He glanced at her, then looked up, and Kalyn’s eyes followed his.

She inhaled sharply as she looked up at the golden interior of the Dome. She knelt, transfixed, for several minutes as her eyes and brain tried to process the elaborate designs in the ceiling and stained glass windows. She only stopped looking when she became lightheaded from staring up for too long.

When she looked back at Joshua, he had his forehead pressed against the rail, apparently praying. She wondered if she was supposed to do the same, but the next moment he looked up, smiled at her, then effortlessly rose to his feet. Kalyn followed, albeit with a bit less grace.

They walked around the rock and went down a narrow flight of steps directly under it, into a small cave. Its floor was carpeted and it was illuminated with candles and by a shaft through the rock which let in a small amount of natural light.

They knelt there, too, and Kalyn noticed Joshua staring at the rock overhead. They didn’t stay long, but before he rose, Joshua kissed the rock wall.

(You can see pictures of the various places my characters visit/live on my Pinterest board.)

Where did I get all of this information, you ask? Image searches on Google, documentaries from Netflix (that’s how I knew what the inside of the Dome of the Rock looked like), YouTube videos, and Google Street View. You can also use Google Art Project to get a look at the artworks inside certain museums (more are being added all the time). If your protagonist is going to a museum anyways, why not go into one of the ones on Art Project, and then describe what s/he is seeing?

There’s always a risk that you’re going to get some details wrong, but you’re more likely to annoy your readers if you put in nothing at all, rather than make a mistake that few will catch.

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