Creating Realism Through Experience
I can always tell when an author is writing about a place based on their own experience rather than cobbling together their perception of a place based on research. The old adage "write about what you know" is, in my humble opinion, never more true than when you describe a real life place in your story.
I have been fortunate enough to have been able to travel extensively, both in my professional and in my personal life. These travels have allowed me to glean impressions of places that one just cannot get from research alone. When I write about what it feels like to walk through Westminster Abbey, it is because I have done it. When I describe the feeling of a breeze coming in off of the Atlantic while standing atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, it is because I have been there.
While I have never been to Cove Point Manor (it is a fictional building that only exists in my mind, and in those of my readers), I have been to numerous old mansions from the period. I based Cove Point Manor on a combination of a number of these old buildings. The mix of different emotions I have experienced walking the halls of these grand mansions of years past are incorporated into my descriptions. This is why I appreciate hearing from readers about my descriptive writing, especially when it is about Cove Point Manor. Hearing from a reader about how I brought the mansion to life is high praise for me, and any writer.
As I write this blog post I am currently back in Shanghai. I have been coming to this magnificent city for over 20 years now, and each visit yields more information which I store in my memory. I do hope to be able to incorporate Shanghai into one of my future stories, and hopefully I will be able to convey the sense of this large and vibrant city in my writing. Shanghai never ceases to amaze me, especially how the "feel" of the city changes so dramatically from daytime to night time.
When you write, try to incorporate your own experiences in your writing - how something made you feel, what sights left an impression on you, what it was like to walk or drive through a particular neighborhood. Your writing will take on a new feeling when you right from your memories.
Get out and explore the world around you. Make a note of people, places, smells, etc. that elicit a special feeling in you; whether it be fear, tension, happiness, contentment or any other feeling, write it down and incorporate it into your stories. You will be surprised at how easily writing about a place you have visited, something you have tasted, or a strong emotion you have felt will be. You may also be pleasantly surprised at how much real life experience will also improve your writing.