Written by Rosalyn Kelly
Visiting new places, traveling the world, or venturing to areas near you for the first time can all spark your imagination and help you write more compelling and vivid descriptions of settings, characters and dialogue. .
Press pause on tours and selfies to take a moment to reflect on your five senses and what each is experiencing. Keep a journal handy and take notes to remind you later of what you have discovered.
Read on to discover some of our suggestions to inspire you with the world around you on your vacation!
LOOK FIRST, THEN TAKE A PHOTO
Rather than seeing an unknown destination behind your camera or phone screen, resist the temptation and keep it in your bag.
Instead, take a close look at the scenery in front of you. What color is the sky, what do the buildings look like, what, precisely, in this incredible sight that makes it so incredible? Concentrate on certain aspects to imprint this scene in your mind, such as the shape of trees or the way sunlight sparkles on a slow flowing river.
Take out your notebook and write down the first words that come to mind as you study the scene. And, if you have time, jot down a paragraph or two on the spot.
Once you’ve immersed yourself in your unique surroundings, keep it in memory or in a notebook, then take a photo or video to help you remember it.
PEOPLE ARE WATCHING
Pick a bench, a bus stop around the corner on a busy street, a cafe, or a place to relax in a park – anywhere really – and watch the people around you.
Watching what humans are actually doing is a great way to improve your writing skills on body language, the unspoken tension between characters, and reactions that speak volumes about the emotions of your protagonist’s relationship with others.
Maybe next to you in the park is a big family having a picnic. We feel that the grandfather does not love his son-in-law. Why is that? What about the physiognomy and posture of the other telling you that? When you look closely, they sit as far apart as the picnic blanket allows, and both avoid eye contact. Maybe the grandfather ignores the son-in-law when he offers him the sandwiches, or the son-in-law takes every opportunity to run after the children and walk away from the group.
Carefully noting facial expressions, precise body movements, and maintaining a range of different people from different backgrounds and cultures helps you imagine your characters with more depth and write them realistically.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE ATMOSPHERE
Recognizing how you feel in different places, and then how your body reacts to that feeling, is a great tool for improving your writing.
For example, you are in a busy market in an overseas city and all the hustle and bustle makes you nervous. Zoom in on your body’s natural reaction to this sensation. Your heart races, your palms start to get wet, you try to lower your body by crossing your arms and hugging your elbows against your sides, your eyes wander around trying to see when people might hit you so you can avoid it.
Recording these responses will help you write a compelling description of your character’s nervousness.
Often times when you travel the world you will experience a myriad of emotions: elated, calm, frustrated, scared or disgusted. Identify your reactions and try to Why you feel that way.
Write down anything that is completely different from anything you’ve seen before or that shocks you. It is the joy of appreciating new cultures. They pull you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to consider different ways of doing things.
VARY HOW YOU GET AROUND
It is very tempting to get around using the fastest means available, especially if you are on a tight route. However, varying your transportation opens up all kinds of new encounters you can use in your writing.
If it’s safe, try using local public transport. Is it packed, empty, dirty or perfectly clean? Do you feel comfortable using it? What kind of people are the other passengers, are they polite to each other? This is probably an indication of a larger cultural aspect of the place. Or do you share your seat with a live chicken. What is the view from the window? All of these sensations and observations are perfect to include in your fiction to boost the realism of a place or scene, bringing it to life for your reader.
Another recommended method of getting around is on foot. Walking brings you closer to the atmosphere of the place. You can use all of your five senses, not only what you can see, but also the smells, the taste of local street food and drink, the feel of brick walls or spongy ground under your feet, the sounds around. from you.
Pay special attention to the locals. What are they wearing, they could dress up in vibrant and colorful outfits. What do they eat and how do they spend their time. You might notice that they are all playing a dice game that at first glance baffles you.
EAT THE FOOD
It is very easy to get used to what you know when it comes to eating. But trying new foods, weird and wonderful dishes, or if you’re a little squeamish, just discovering them can help you when writing about a new fantasy world or a character with unusual tastes or backgrounds.
If you are brave enough to taste exotic foods, then notice what the food looks like on your plate, what it looks like before you take a bite. Focus on the texture of your mouth, is it slimy, grainy, smooth and how you feel when you swallow and it hits your tummy. Does the spiciness of citrus make you cry in your eyes or is it so spicy that your cheeks turn red, or does it have a consistency that melts in your mouth?
Also watch how others eat the food, react to it, appreciate it.
Many fictional scenes are played out in cafes or restaurants, or when the character is eating. The reactions to the food served are indicative of your character, their emotions and their personality. Trying new foods and watching others eat helps you paint a vivid picture as you communicate this rich detail to your reader.
LISTEN TO CHATTING AND MUSIC
When you write dialogue, you want to make it realistic. People talk to each other with words, but also with growls, sniffles, sighs or hmmms. Many people also finish the sentence another says to show that they understand. In the speech we also use abbreviations, slang and strong dialects. The tone in which someone speaks is also indicative of their emotion or purpose.
Listen to snippets of conversations around you and write down anything that you think is interesting. It could be a child who only speaks when spoken to or a couple arguing.
And be aware of the sounds of a foreign language that you don’t understand. Does it roll on the tongue or is it jerky with harsh throaty sounds. Try to determine what they might be talking about based on the tone.
Bringing a scene to life in a reader’s imagination helps appreciate your writing. One of the ways to do this is to describe what they hear. Whether it’s local music, heavy traffic, or the laughter of the kids, keep your ears glued when you travel and write down what you hear. Practicing while you are traveling is a great exercise for honing your descriptive skills.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
There’s no faster way to set the scene than by transmitting the scent of a place. Breathe deeply and determine the aromas. Maybe the place stinks, but what about? Old fish and the sea? Or the combined body odor of thousands of cramped people. Or you might find yourself in a rose garden and the scent is extremely sweet.
Focusing on the smells around you is also great for unleashing your creativity. Does a man pass you by smelling cologne strongly? Maybe he’s on his way to meet his partner, or he’s just had a terrible date, or he’s going to a job interview, or he’s been out all night and didn’t have time to wash before work, so he sprayed himself in a perfume counter with the first bottle he could find. Write down all the reasons you can think of – any one of them could be perfect for a character you are considering and will help you illustrate it exhaustively.
Inspiration is all around us, and venturing to new places and discovering a new way of life is great for sparking ideas for your writing. Often, it’s the evocative descriptions that help bring your writing to life.