1. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    Traveling for Research

    Discussion in 'Research' started by HistoricalScience, Dec 27, 2015.

    I was curious if anyone has traveled for the sake of seeing a location that a scene(s) takes place in. The novel I'm working on right now takes starts in Wyoming and the main character travels from there through the Black Hills, the Badlands, the prairie, to the Missouri, etc. I have never been to any of these places so in September I took a week off work and made a road trip out of it. I live in Northern Colorado so it was plausible for me to do so and have to say that the story has strengthened because of it.

    Google Images/Google Earth gave me a false sense of knowing what the landscape was like, how it was laid out (especially the Badlands). Actually standing in Badlands National Park and hiking through some of it changed how I described the landscape and dramatically changed how the main character traversed it. The supporting character also lives exiled in a cave in the Black Hills for years. At first, I just created a random cave but all that changed entirely when I learned more about Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills and then took a guided tour of it. The cave history and everything about it fit my story perfectly.

    Anyways, I have found that traveling is incredibly helpful for writing and wanted to share my own experience. Even if you can't go to where your scenes are set, perhaps finding landscape/areas that are similar and visit them with the right state of mind could do wonders.
     
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  2. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    There was an author in The Playboy Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, who would get on a train and take a trip across country. Pretty sure he took different routes each time, but then again it was back in the '60s.

    As for my own writings, I have to rely on a globe map of Mars. Bit to expensive to wander around a place that is several million miles away. At least I have a map to work with. Other places include the moons around Jupiter and Saturn. As well as other places far beyond that. But it would be neat if it were possible to travel to the areas that are outside of our little blue planet. :D
     
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  3. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    Haha! I watched The Martian last night and was disappointed they didn't shoot on location :)

    Excellent film by the way
     
  4. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I saw it just last Tuesday. I agree with you on both thoughts. :p
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I haven't traveled with my story in mind but I most certainly am drawing from all the traveling I've done. I've taken quite a bit from walking on the massive lava beds in Iceland and the light up clothes at Burning Man. The ocean and an island in my story fit the incredible scenes in the Caribbean. And inner city LA at night gave me an idea of what the city would be like to my character from the forest, she'd notice how odd the sounds and artificial daylight would seem.
     
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  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe soon we'll have VR tours of some of those places. :)
     
  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    That would be cool. :p
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've travelled some for writing - I used to live in Vancouver, so I know the generalities well enough, but when I decided to set some books there I went back out to update my memories. Tax deductible travel is my favourite kind of travel!
     
  9. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    When I saw the title of the thread I thought you meant traveling to conduct research. Most research items I can get via ILL thanks to some university connections, but occasionally an item I want will be in special collections, which means that yes, I have traveled to look at the map (and take photographs to be developed and enlarged later.)

    I wish I could travel to the locations where my story is set. I guess that will be my forever dream.
    It is a wonderful way to gain insight and perspective which you simply can't get from books and maps.
     
  10. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had to make do with Google Earth at ground level view. I wanted to make a trip to see things first hand, from Alexandria Egypt, down the Red Sea to Sri Lanka, through the Straits of Malacca, across China to Kashgar through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and across the Med to Rome, but my wife thought it would be prohibitively expensive, with some hazards enroute. Spoil sport!

    hope you had a nice holiday with family, KhalieLa. Our WIP is in hands of two editors, and we started a second non-fiction "True Believers, the Founding Fathers of TACAMO." Google if you want to know what that is about. Easier work, about fifteen "founding fathers" each contribute a chapter, I wrote mine, an old CO wrote another, and I edit everyone's work.
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely. You have done in one week's trip what you could not have done with years of research.

    I HAVE traveled to where my locations are set ...or near enough. Mine is a historical novel, so lots will have changed. But to get a notion of what the Rockies are like to be IN them, I had to be in them. (I found them surprisingly claustrophobic, and so did one of my characters, who was born and raised on flatter ground.) I loved prairies (against all expectations) and was able to give my character, who also loved the prairie, a few reasons why. I am planning my next novel to be set in 19th century Boston and also Nova Scotia (the eastern shore). And yes, I've been both places.

    If you are writing fantasy, of course, you won't be able to visit the exact locations. However, to get a feel for the kind of terrain you are using in your story, make every effort to visit a similar place. You may get some insight from GoogleEarth, but you won't feel the temperature, or the wind (or lack of it) or smell the plants, or hear the sounds, or feel what it's like to actually walk uphill or downhill through these places. Even the quality of light can matter.

    Even more than accuracy, a visit to an actual location can also give you ideas you might not otherwise have had. Seeing a sunset and its immediate aftermath in a desert, under an absolutely cloudless sky, was an unforgettable experience which worked its way into a setting for a scene in my book. I would never have thought of that without seeing it myself.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
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