World Building Is Key To a Great Story

When I first started working on my short stories about fate, relationships, and love, I was so focused on the people and their stories, that I didn’t pay much attention to where they were.

As the stories developed, my characters needed some place to be doing what they were doing, and I didn’t know where that was. Needless to say, that put the brakes on the stories. I could take it only so far without more context.

I had a vague geographical area for where my characters were living, but not much more than that. Are they in small towns, medium towns, or big cities? What kind of house do they live in? Where do they go for coffee or to workout?

So many questions I needed to answer to bring dimensions and realism to my stories. Now that I have the general outlines for characters and stories, I’m thinking more about how they live. My characters inhabit a place and time, so I want to make sure to get it right.

Small Town Research

Some of my characters are from small towns, so this past weekend when my husband and I went down to Charlottesville, VA, we drove through some of the small towns in the area. We stopped at a few and walked around to get a sense of the rhythm and pace.

We popped in local stores and looked at items that might be different from our stores in the DC metro area. I noticed the types of civic organizations, community events, and churches.

Not a whole lot is different from where I live, but many of the older houses and buildings haven’t been torn down to make way for “progress”. I also find that history is closer at hand in these smaller towns, giving it a different feel. It’s the subtle nuances that I wanted to capture for my stories.

What kind of research have you done for world building in your books and stories?

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