Author Essentials: Go there…

Sophie E Tallis in New Zealand

If your imaginary world is rich in geographical detail, at least in your mind’s eye, you need to get out there and soak it up in order to transfer the experience to the reader. Sophie E Tallis was already travelling when she started to think about writing her epic fantasy adventures.

You may be the writer, stuck at your desk – but the reader can be anyone, anywhere in the world. And if you’re imagining any part of the world that your reader knows, you need to impart knowledge and inspire empathy. If the reader doesn’t recognise the Oxford Street that they pass through on the way to work every day, because you’re writing about it from your cul-de-sac in Bexhill-on-Sea and the closest you ever got to Central London was Tunbridge Wells, then perhaps a one-day travelcard wouldn’t go amiss in your research.

Even if your world is invented, if it adheres to the physics, chemistry and climate zones of our own, there are places you need to visit to understand what the weather feels like. What the ground feels like. What the air smells of. Google Earth will only show you so much – just the visuals – and that’s not what writing is about.

Imagine you’re telling your story to a blind person, who has never seen a drive-by photograph of a street in Panama. What can you hear? Is there a breeze? Can you get a phone signal on your network there?

How far away does home feel? And if your protagonist is at home there – how does it feel to be a local?

Never underestimate your readers. Don’t sell them short. And if your budget is tight – maybe start with the places you have already seen…