1. SutkiKynyR

    SutkiKynyR Banned

    Dec 2, 2018
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    Completely different environment one is living in.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by SutkiKynyR, Dec 16, 2018.

    How do you establish believable atmosphere into some settings that are not kind of setting you are living in?

    Do you go to such places to get the feel of it or what?

    I think I might have some difficulties to insert my story into some desert. Deserts are not what I know anything about and don't really look forward to know .. but I think I should.


    Research is of course key to get things right, but do you travel on locations and such?
  2. J. J. Wilding

    J. J. Wilding Member

    Dec 16, 2018
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    Lincoln, England
    I can't travel to half the locations my story visits, so I instead indulge in film and videogames to take me there instead. I have a snow covered forest, a prosperous trading city, another city built over the edge of a mountain with a waterfall running through the middle of it... they get progressively harder to imagine but you get the idea. Film and videogames achieve what few other mediums achieve and that's a completely removal of self to parts unknown and it's fantastic when something comes along that nails it. If you're looking for a desert, I strongly advise you check out survival programs set in the desert as they often represent the harsh weather and toll on the body alongside the landscape.

    When I want the right feel for a place, now that's a little more difficult. I often carry a couple thousand songs on an MP3 player wherever I go and I try to find the perfect piece to accompany a location, a building or garden. Once I get the perfect song I just find somewhere to sit and enjoy it, absord all the intricacies of it. I wish I could travel more but I'm limited as where I can go. Film, music and videogames (namely dark fantasy as that's what I write) go a long way to helping me visualise exactly what I'm trying to write, then my imagination takes over. They get the ball rolling you see, down a very steep hill where hopefully great ideas lie at the bottom. Hope this helps friend, happy writing!
  3. Darius Marley

    Darius Marley Member

    Jan 2, 2019
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    If you want to get the feel of a desert without actually getting to know it yourself, asking a survival expert for tips (particularly on dealing with the dangers of exposure, predators, poisonous plants, etc.) will give you some very interesting stuff to work with to make your scene more believable. It might even give you some new ideas for tangling your MC up into a desert-specific conflict!
    flawed personality likes this.
  4. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

    Sep 30, 2015
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    Covered a lot of the world in my last book, 2000 years ago (17,000 miles) and I can't afford to visit all of them, and some, like modern Afghanistan, I don't want to. I used a lot of research tools - Wikipedia is really handy for describing ancient cities, and the modern cities often have climate data so you can describe the weather accurately. I used Google Earth to look at an area in detail, so I can scan it and see it as best I can at ground level. My group went from Kashgar, China into the Alay Valley in Kyrgyzstan via the Irkeshtam Pass into the Pamirs on a caravan. That turned out to be a lot different from what I thought. Google Earth showed that the pass was about two or three miles wide at the entrance, climbing gradually up the the crest where it was still about a mile wide. It looked like it had been carved by a glacier, because it was relatively smooth, God' s own highway over the mountains. Relative than a narrow path along the edge of a cliff, it was a broad highway with very high mountains either side. The Alay valley was at 9000 feet, but a surprisingly green flat place, around a wide meandering river. The river stopped meandering when it got to Tajikistan and just plunged like a regular mountain torrent down 6000 feet to the Tajik plain. Topography showed that Irkeshtam Pass was just 12,000 feet, so a surprisingly easy climb, though high enough for everyone to notice the altitude. And Highway 41 in Kyrgyzstan still follows the same route, so I was able to find a lot of local pictures of the area.
  5. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

    Jan 9, 2018
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    Research, desert can mean from Death Valley to the Sahara and they are not the same!
    Shenanigator likes this.
  6. Manuforti

    Manuforti Active Member

    Jan 4, 2019
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    Perhaps less is more. I am ignorant of a desert environmenti. If you were describing an environment I was familiar with though and one you were not, less adjectives would be your friend.

    If you tell me the main character is walking down the street of a grim, northern, post industrial city for example - I will populate that environment unconsciously.

    If you tell me it's day time and the desert is hot, I will picture dunes and glaring sky. I am not saying don't be descriptive. Let me as a reader have some imaginative input.
    J.D. Ray likes this.
  7. Veloci-Rapture

    Veloci-Rapture Member

    Dec 23, 2018
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    That's an excellent point that bears repeating. Are we talking about an erg, a reg, a hamada, or a sagebrush desert? Is it a high-altitude, cold desert like the Gobi? Is it a rainshadow desert or a low-latitude desert? Just answering those questions with some research will probably get you 80% of what you need to write about it, and the rest will come from watching survival videos on YouTube.

    Research is the most fun part of writing! :D
    Shenanigator and animagus_kitty like this.
  8. -oz

    -oz Active Member

    Jan 20, 2011
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    To answer the original question, to establish a believable atmosphere, you need to casually mention sensations with the desert, and unfortunately, knowing about most of those come with experience. For example, I've lived in a desert for the last decade, and the thing that is most taken for granted that blew my mind when I moved here is just how darned much the temperature swings with the sun. Sure, it's hot during the day (in the summer at least), but the temperature plummets 30-40 degrees (F) overnight in the summer, since it's missing the humidity that traps the warm air in.

    Figure out where you're placing your story, and figure out other things: how stiff will the wind blow? That can cause dust to blow in the air --not exactly a sandstorm, but it will reduce visibility. Depending on people, nosebleeds occur more often, however allergy problems are fewer. Hopefully this spurs a little bit of a brainstorm and gives you ideas to research.

    //edit// ...Just realized the OP was banned. Oh well, hopefully this helps someone else.
    peachalulu and CerebralEcstasy like this.

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