In the name of research… Part 1- Setting

November 14, 2012

The things a girl has to do in the name of research…

I’ve already taken you on my adrenaline-packed aerobatic flight in the earlier post The Avengers. With Book 1 of my trilogy wrapped up, I thought I’d share some of the journey that brought it into the world. For writers you might like some of my tips and for readers you might like to know where my ideas come from.

In this first post on research I’ll give you my tips for SETTING and how to form a strong connection with place:

#1 Write first, add detail later. The first rule of getting that novel written is to fill the pages as quickly as possible. Think ‘e’ for electronic research. I started researching my setting on the internet because let’s face it, we all know it’s way cheaper than airline tickets when your story is global and eats up far less of your writing time. So I Googled ‘kidnapping’ and learnt Phoenix was the #1 kidnapping capital in the United States and my U.S. setting was born. But beware, just because you read it on the World Wide Web doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true – do confirm your information is from a reliable source.

#2 Spend as much time as you can away from the internet and in ‘real’ settings. If you can visit your setting, fantastic! I had the opportunity to add detail to my settings by actually visiting some of them. I recently did a sunset horse ride through the Arizona desert. I could never have captured the vastness of the landscape had I not seen it for myself.  It was like being on another planet and so different to the Australian outback. Riding across the ridge as the sun set across the desert was an incredibly surreal experience and added the word ‘pockmarked’ to my desert settings.


#3 Saturate your senses. Even if you can’t be in the place that your novel is set, find somewhere similar to inspire you. I have a quiet addiction to the rainforest but its many years since I’ve hiked through untamed forest and creeks like my main character has to do. So I spent a few weekends in rainforest retreats and hiking well-worn trails. Sit down in the middle of the woods, so to speak, and soak up the sights and sounds. The tinkling of the nearby creek and the myriad of insects flittering in the light filtering down from the canopy were discovered in just such a place.


#4 Open your mind to new experiences. If you set at your desk every day, nothing changes. In 2011, I travelled to South America. After a harrowing ride across the roughest seas they could remember (maybe that was just meant to scare us) on a ‘ferry’ that looked more like a refugee boat, I spent several days exploring the stunning island of Ilha Grande. With its lush rainforest covered mountains and pristine white beaches, I just knew it had to be the location that the military grandfather in my story retires to with the family secret.

#5 Always keep a notebook at hand. Practice visual note-taking. If you see something that fits your setting, record it. Cross check your notes with internet finds. In part of my book I have some girls locked in a shipping container in a warehouse. I happened to see a shipping container on the back of a truck a few days back and noticed how the locking mechanism worked. Such small detail but I was able to weave that into my description.

#6 Take photos/video of places and use them to practice writing flowery descriptions of your setting. Then cut all the padding out that will slow your reader down and put the bare bones of the setting in your novel. The reader’s imagination will create the rest.

 Let me know if these tips helped you improve your setting in any way by posting your comments below.




37 Responses to “In the name of research… Part 1- Setting”

  1. Jodi on November 18th, 2012 5:46 pm

    Really helpful Lea and great how you use examples from your own research. I’m already planning a trip to research my setting and speak to the people there. I’ll be taking my notebook and camera!

  2. Lea on November 18th, 2012 5:51 pm

    Thanks Jodi. I’ll be posting my tips on researching people soon. Lea

  3. Grace Cooper on November 18th, 2012 8:14 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I am originally from Washington, D. C. A lot of stories are set there, but one book I remember used actual lesser known street names and neighborhood sites and sights that were apart from the usual US Capitol, White House, etc. e.g. a small neighborhood deli, a store front church, a playground popular with basketball players, etc. Use of these real home town places added autheticity and made the reading more real to me. Even someone from somewhere else, I think would get a feeling for the real place by addition of such details.

  4. Lea on November 18th, 2012 8:15 pm

    Great advice Grace, I’ll take it on board. If you can’t go there yourself, there’s always Google Earth that will give you street views of such places.

  5. Betsy A. Riley on November 18th, 2012 8:56 pm

    Nice tips, thanks for posting the link. I would add: don’t rely solely on visual descriptions–include other senses. You mentioned sound, but also think about smells, textures, temperature, humidity (or lack of). For instance, in my first trip to New Mexico, I found that the curl disappeared from my hair because of the dry air. Sweat evaporated quickly, leaving a gritty layer of salt on my skin. In tropical settings, my hair curled up and my clothing got soaked with sweat that would not dry–creating a sticky feeling.

  6. Ian Miller on November 18th, 2012 10:15 pm

    For me, I try to learn as much as I can about the place BEFORE I write anything about it. You can waste a certain amount of time if you find out eventually that it is unsuitable for some reason, but better to find that out before writing than after.

  7. Lea on November 18th, 2012 10:17 pm

    Sound advice Ian. Thanks for your comment. I did get plenty of detail from the internet first to qualify my setting, then had the opportunity to visit it later to add to the description.

  8. Laurie Smith on November 20th, 2012 3:43 pm

    I’m lucky in one way when it comes to creating a sense of place in my books. I write what I know and have a musty storehouse of memories lurking in the depths waiting to be drawn on. With my varied past work history I can conjure up many things I may need to place in the story. The key is bringing the whole memory up. For those who don’t have the work experience I can suggest looking at a picture of what you wish to write about. Look at each part individually and bring the image to the front of your mind. For instance you may be describing something happening on a fishing trawler. Already there are three smells, salt water, fish gut and diesel fuel. Below decks there are cooking smells, the heads, if the weather is rough all of these smells will be combined. Then you have that biting tang of ozone in the air, the rocking, rolling movement of the boat. Seagulls hovering and squawking above. The wind caressing your skin, the cold/heat, water splashing as the trawler cuts through the sea. The disappearing/reappearing horizon, how your body feels balancing on the deck, the chug chug of the engine and the occasional puff of diesel smoke. All that without a boat in sight.

  9. Jade Cannell on November 29th, 2012 1:12 pm

    Fantastic grounded advice Lea thanks heaps.

  10. A J Robinson on December 3rd, 2012 10:50 pm

    I have an English teacher once tell me to remember the five senses. She said that you didn’t have to use all five in every scene – that’s like going down a laundry list! No, what you want to do is figure out which of the senses are best suited to setting a particular scene. If you’re in Florence, Italy, it could be visual and olfactory. If it’s a seaside resort or island, maybe the salt air stings the eyes or can be tasted.

  11. Kenneth Weene on December 3rd, 2012 10:51 pm

    Too often authors confuse naming well known sites with evoking a place. “Wow, the Washington Monument.” “Did you know it has 898 steps.” “I’m not climbing that.” “Don’t worry there’s an elevator.” Now that is bad writing.
    “People are allowed to do that?” “What?” “Lie around on the grass that way. I mean that guy hasn’t even got a shirt on.” “So?” “Hey, that’s the Washington Monument.” “Sure. Let’s get some peanuts from that vendor.” Okay, I just made it up, but it’s more the setting.
    And A.J. is dead on. We want to use all our senses, including the ones for which we don’t have names. For example, “Gosh, I’ve been here dozens of times but I still get tingly.” “Know what you mean. Ever hear a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing?” “No, put I listened to King. Now that was a speech.” (Yes, Memory is a sense to me as is tingly sensation.)

  12. on February 10th, 2013 4:29 pm

    I blog also and I am authoring a thing very close to this specific article,
    “In the name of research Part 1- Setting : Lea Scott”.

    Would you mind in case Iutilize a bit of of your
    personal concepts? Thanks for the post -Marilynn

  13. Lea on February 10th, 2013 7:30 pm

    Hi Marilynn. Please feel free to pass on my concepts, they are meant to help others. Lea 🙂

  14. how do i get my ex back on April 11th, 2013 7:28 am

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful article. Thanks for supplying these details.

  15. usps com on June 2nd, 2013 6:29 pm

    Nice replies in return of this matter with solid arguments and describing everything about that.

    Also visit my blog post – usps com

  16. average price of breast augmentation in ireland on January 4th, 2014 10:59 am

    Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break.
    I love the knowledge you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, amazing site!

  17. Loria Uselman on February 21st, 2014 3:57 am

    Thanks in support of sharing such a fastidious opinion, article is nice, thats why i
    have read it fully

  18. install whatsapp on pc on February 24th, 2014 8:49 am

    I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i’m glad reading your article.
    But wanna remark on some general things, The website style is wonderful, the articles is really
    excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  19. steve jobs quotes on March 25th, 2014 1:12 pm

    Quality posts is the secret to interest the users to
    visit the site, that’s what this website is providing.

  20. Example on March 27th, 2014 10:02 am

    It’s not my first time to payy a quick visit this web page, i am visiting this
    web site dailly and obtain nice information from here every day.

    Stop by my webpage – Example

  21. Terrance on April 7th, 2014 3:39 am

    Wow! After all I got a website from where I be able to truly
    get helpful facts concerning my study and knowledge.

  22. Joseph on April 17th, 2014 10:34 pm

    What’s up everyone, it’s my first visit at this web page, and
    post is truly fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these types of articles.

  23. history stories video on May 1st, 2014 8:53 pm

    Magnificent website. A lot of useful information here. I
    am sending it to several buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And obviously, thank you on your sweat!

  24. motorcycle bags on June 13th, 2014 11:05 am

    It’s actually a cool and useful piece of information. I
    am happy that you shared this useful info with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Freeman on June 14th, 2014 1:00 am

    Quality articles is the main to interest the visitors to pay a
    visit the site, that’s what this web page is providing.

  26. cute quotes about relationships on June 22nd, 2014 7:26 pm

    I’m extremely inspired along with your writing abilities and also with
    the format to your weblog. Is that this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Either way keep up the nice high quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one

  27. Lea on June 22nd, 2014 7:35 pm

    Thanks 🙂 This is a paid WordPress theme but they have lots of free ones now.

  28. strategie option binaire on July 4th, 2014 11:39 pm

    Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?

    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is excellent, as well as the content!

  29. stomatolog bytom on July 5th, 2014 7:29 pm

    Thanks foor the auspicious writeup. It in fact used tto be a entertainmentt account it.
    Glance complicated to more delivered agreeable from you! By thhe way, how can we keep in touch?

    Feel free to visit my webpage … stomatolog bytom

  30. on July 20th, 2014 4:06 pm

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a article author
    for your weblog. You have some really great posts and
    I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some
    of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please send me an email if interested. Regards!

  31. red hoodie on May 24th, 2015 6:34 pm

    Magnificent beat ! I wish to apprentice even as you amend your
    website, how could i subscribe for a blog site?
    The account helped me a applicable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright transparent concept

  32. make your own shirt on May 28th, 2015 8:34 am

    Very good article! We will be linking to this great post on our website.
    Keep up the good writing.

  33. on October 14th, 2015 5:05 am

    Hi everyone, it’s my first go to see at this web site, and article is genuinely fruitful in support
    of me, keep up posting such content.

  34. surpassing muscle peak on December 14th, 2015 10:09 am

    Hello, after reading this remarkable post i am too cheerful to share my know-how here with mates.

  35. Royce on June 13th, 2018 3:10 pm

    Whats up very nice website!! Man .. Beautiful .. Wonderful ..
    I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds additionally?

    I’m glad to seek out so many helpful info here in the put up, we’d like develop more strategies in this regard, thank you for sharing.

    . . . . .

  36. on June 16th, 2018 5:13 pm

    Ƭhіs article will assist the internet people for setting
    up new website oг even ɑ weblog frⲟm start tօ end.

  37. Nicole on June 30th, 2018 5:09 pm

    At this moment I am going away to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast
    coming yet again to read further news.

Got something to say?




Lea Scott