author, creative writing, writing

Using Internet Resources to Add Depth to the Scenes in your Novel

Writing is all about imagination, and as writers it’s amazing what we can build out of a small, initial idea. And readers are imaginative too, which is why the whole process of reading/writing is so enjoyable. However, it’s still important to provide realistic descriptions, to help immerse the reader in the moment.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of visiting the location where your novel or story is set. This way you get to really experience all 5 senses, and take note of the things you see, smell, hear, touch and taste. However, sometimes it’s just not possible to visit that place. Maybe it’s too far away, you don’t have time or the money, or simply because the place is fictional and doesn’t exist. As such, I’ve listed a few ways you can use the wonders of the internet, to inspire your mind and help you out if you’ve got writers block, or are in a writing slump.

Picturing a place from memory is good, but often brings only the bigger picture. Looking at a photograph of a place/setting allows you to seek out the smaller details, to really add an authenticity to your description. It doesn’t have to be a large landscape, like a beach or a forest. It could be a coffee shop, a room in a house, the contents of a drawer or cupboard. And if you’re writing about a fictional place you can choose photos of places/settings that you drew inspiration from when building your world.
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Videos can be used for the same purpose as the above, but with two added benefits; movement and sound. Watching the comings and goings of a place offer even more insight than a photograph, and background noise is important too. What can you hear, besides the obvious? The distant rumble of a train, the chirps of bird song, sirens, music?
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Audio Clips
If it’s just sound you want to focus on, try listening to audio clips instead. Many websites offer background sounds and ambience for a variety of settings and situations. It’s a great way to give prominence to noises, and to close your eyes and let the sounds tell you a story. Incorporating them into your writing adds a great depth, that will have your readers living alongside your characters.
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There are so many incredible artists sharing their work online. Art is a great way to view concepts of things that don’t exist, and therefore can’t be captured by a photo. Concepts such as unique characters, designs on mythical creatures/myths, or visions of the future. If you’re writing fantasy, or Sci-Fi in particular, this can really inspire you. There’s no harm in appreciating somebody else’s imagination in order to ignite your own.
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What online resources do you use to deepen your settings? Share yours in the comments below.

Until then,
Keep writing,

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31 thoughts on “Using Internet Resources to Add Depth to the Scenes in your Novel”

  1. I’ve used Wikipedia a lot to look up/refresh some facts I needed for writing, including but not limited to anatomy and diet of animals, the habitat of animals and plants, tissue damage from heavy burns, and some other things.
    However, it carries the danger of sliding into looking up less relevant trivia instead of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always caution against writing a story set in a place you’ve never visited. You can do a lot of research, and it will help, but it will usually show. I get away with setting my SF stories in London because it’s post-nuclear war London. I get to make things up. But from time to time, I have to do some research, and I find the one of the best resources is Google Maps. Just knowing where things are, how the city is laid out, and all the pictures at the landmarks. Very useful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Google maps is a great one, and I agree completely! If I write about real places they’re always places I’ve been, but looking at pictures can refresh my memory to the smaller things. x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been writing about London and York in the Roman era, and currently in the Viking era. Wikipedia has been a help in looking at maps and plans of that era. Also Pinterest and other picture sites for insights into the interior of Roman homes and country villas. I also found a brilliant video showing the construction of a Celtic roundhouse in Anglesea.
        For my fantasy books, I use places I visit as inspiration, such as a walk through woodland in the spring, with the delicate and ephemeral wood anemones, light filtering through the newly emerging leaves and the birdsong, squirrel chattering etc.
        I sgree, though, that Wikipedia and Google Earth are great resources.
        I also find specific sites, like Viking Lady.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I am lucky to have access to a university library, but check stuff all the time online. As you suggest, getting visual images, e.g. for places and minor characters is useful – the main characters I can see in my head, but not always minor ones. Even if I don’t describe them, it’s useful to have a mental image.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good post. The internet is a tremendous resource library at our fingertips. You can also use Pinterest to save what you find. I have one board just for males/females that would fit in the world that I write, including separate ones for children under 12. I also have one for clothing and one for medieval clothing/articles/etc. You could even create one just for a single story/book and post everything there that applies to that, to use as a ready reference.

    I’ve also sometimes found it useful to literally draw a map or picture of what I envision. I’m not much of an artist, but I can still sketch something basic that locates things in relation to other things, whether is it geography or a land/country/etc. or the layout of a home/office/building to know what is where. That helps when I’m moving characters around in the world. If I want them to go from Place A to Place B, do they go through a forest? Do they have to cross a body of water? If they are going upstairs in a building, where are the stairs located? Where is the elevator, if there is one?

    Generally if I’m researching a specific topic, I’ll copy/paste all or part of articles (and their url) into a Word document. Once I feel like I’ve answered the question I had, I can go through the document and highlight details that I want to particularly keep in mind or use, so I can readily pick them out.

    But, as noted, you can get so deep into research that you are sidetracked from writing. It’s amazing how 3 hours of research might result in 2 paragraphs, but those 2 paragraphs are usually better and more accurate for the research. And you might be able to use it again in a different story or setting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Following other writer’s blogs is inspiring, the different writings styles and the feel of the blogs themselves. Also, it’s interesting what you say about looking back on photos of familiar places. I wrote about a place I had been to recently, but when I looked back on a photo, it was quite different and I had to change my description. Goes to show how our own perception and memory can distort what we think is “fact”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I use Google Earth a lot to visit places I’ve never been. I can follow street layouts, look up transportation routes and fares, and pick out restaurants and look up their menus. I like to think it adds realism to anyone who knows the places my characters travel.

    Since I’ve been working on a time travel series, I also use the Internet to explore those places in other eras and note the changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Downtown Eugene has this giant Baptist Church with these huge pillars and long steps leading to the entry way. In my first novel my character runs past this church and pauses for a moment. It was a tiny scene but an important one. I remember going down town and walking his path. In that moment I was him. I could see his world.

    If that church hadn’t existed I could not have written the scene in the way that I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. These are all such wonderful tips! The WIP I’m rewriting is set in California and (sadly!) I’ve never been there before. I think I’m going to watch some more videos to really get a feel, but unfortunately I can’t feel the nice weather lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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