Q&A: Unfamiliar settings

Joy asked:

I thought to start my fiction (novel) while I'm on a holiday break. I'm conceptualizing some ideas and taking down notes for a chicklit story. I Love chicklit genre.But my dilemma is about the setting. Did it ever happen to you that you based a setting of your story in a place where you've never been before?

The last time I was in the US was in 1999. A part from the fact that my memory is kinda rusty and needs fine tuning from time to time, I also didn't pay attention to take note of specific details about the stores, where to go, sights to see. I was just overwhelmed with my new environment and ofcourse homesickness.

Currently, I'm based in Croatia ( Southeast EU), but as a background setting, I'd like to mention about the main character based in the US. Should I be very specific about the place in the US? If anything else, I've got friends from the US who can guide me through this.

I don't know if I'm making sense here. But I'm sure you know what I mean.
I'd really appreciate your input based on your writing experience, if that's not too much to ask. :)

Camy here: That's great that you're starting your novel! My advice would be to just write it even if you're not sure if you're accurate about the US settings.

If you're not sure about your facts at a particular point in the novel, you can do what I do and insert [xxx do research later] in the manuscript and then just keep writing.

After I finish the manuscript, I do a search for "xxx" and find all the notes I left to myself to fix. Then you can do more research, ask your friends specific questions, etc.

Also, don't forget that your setting should be a character in the book, not just a backdrop. When you integrate the setting into the storyline—so much so that the story couldn't take place anywhere else in the world—it makes for more vibrant reading.

If any of you guys have any other questions for my Q&A series, just leave a comment and I'll be sure to get to it!


  1. Interesting question. I had the same problem with a setting in one of my stories. In my case it was Marrakesh in North Africa. I've never been there, so how could I possibly write about it. I did some research and hoped for the best. Now, if it had been the U.S., I would have had no problem, at least the south of the U.S. because that is fresh in my mind.
    Blessings, Star

  2. Star, that's really all you can do unless you can spring for a trip to North Africa! The best you can do is do extensive research to make sure you're more or less accurate. Also, the authors I've spoken to say that readers tend not to be as picky about accuracy in settings as they are about accuracy in historical time periods.

  3. Hi Star and Camy!
    Thanks Camy for posting my question. I hope we can use your site to network with aspiring writers like me.

    Please feel free to give my email to those who would like to share their publishing experience.

    It would be nice to learn from each other.
    Thanks so much!

  4. I hope my answer was helpful, Joy! I linked to your blog so people have a way to contact you.

  5. Thank you so much, Camy! :)

  6. This is going to help me a lot. I have so many scenes in my story that I've never been to. And the characters are probably going to be traveling a lot more....

    Thanks a lot!!

  7. You're welcome! I'm glad this was helpful for you!


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