Blog By Tania Joyce

How to create believable settings and locations for your stories. The balancing act of tying fact with fiction.

Creating believable settings and locations for your stories. The balancing act of tying fact with fiction.

Creating worlds that our readers believe in can be one of the biggest challenges in writing. Too much description can be overwhelming and distracting, while not enough makes it hard for the readers to connect to your characters and what’s actually happening. While inside your head your world may be clear, it is an art to translate that into written words. It’s a fine balance to allow the reader to use their own imagination to visualise in their mind the world that you want and how much information and detail you document on to the page.

So how do you go about creating believable worlds.  Here are some of my tips to guide you.


One thing I know from experience, travel helps so much in the creative process. With the real-life experience in visiting locations helps put so much more than the physical location into your work. It enables you to add that special and personal touch into your characters as you’ve experienced the sights, smells, atmosphere and visual aspects. It helps you put your location into perspective. Distance, buildings, roads, pathways become so much clearer and easier to write about if you’ve actually been to the location you want to write about yourself.

Picture Boards

Many people print off pictures and create story boards to provide them with visual prompts for their locations. These can be very useful. But upgrade with the times. Use Pinterest or the like. As you browse the Internet, just pin your favourite pictures to your board created in your Pinterest account. All your inspiration is stored, links back to the source on the web and you can pin as many crazy things as you like to create your board of inspiration.

The Internet

The world is at your fingertips and you can access so much information to help create your character’s world. You no longer have to leave your home to visit exotic locations but nothing beats real travel. Google earth is amazing to get street views, maps and images of endless locations across the globe. Maps, images and tourist hub websites are great sources of information.


So much must go into writing your chosen era correctly. Language (written and dialogue) and clothing (corsets and cravats) but also transport, buildings and lifestyle help create the worlds for your characters. The major point to consider if writing historical stories is that you do adequate research into your chosen time period. You do not have to become and expert by any means but … your content should be accurate. Whether it be ancient Rome, regency in England or post War in the early 1900’s – ensure the world you create is laced with the correct facts.

Fantasy / Sci-fi

While your imagination may be broad, the difficulty and challenge in creating worlds in this genre is making it believable. Readers must be able to accurately visualize and feel your world is real. Is your world on earth or in a galaxy far, far away? Is it wizards and sorcerers, magic and mystical creatures or is it aliens living on earth? Build your world on reality and if it differs from earth, how so? Let your readers know the foundations of your world. Urban fantasy differs from traditional fantasy (usually pre-technology). What weapons and transport exist? Make it believe and maintain consistency for your characters.

Bring your world alive

Do not bog down your manuscript with excessive descriptions. Introduce and show the reader your world through their interactions with others, their dialogue, their actions or adventure. Your character’s motion, mood and senses will make your world pop up vividly in your readers mind.
Join Writing Groups, find a critique partner or find a professional free-lance editor to help your polish your manuscript. Research online resources enter competitions to gain insight into your writing. Value any feedback - the positive and the negative. It’s only going to make you a better writer.

My world

I write contemporary romance and like to write my stories set in locations that I have personally visited. I find it helps me add in finer details and real-life experiences into my characters. I like to tie real life locations in with fictitious elements so people that have actually visited such locations do not knock my writing off as total rubbish and they can see that the story contains enough fact that they can easily relate to and visual what my character is experiencing.

Propositions by Tania JoyceMy debut novel, Propositions, is set in the dazzling lights of Sydney Harbour and the lush green countryside and wine region of the Hunter Valley.

The gorgeous location on Darling Harbour I envisaged my fictitious Somers Hotel to be based on is the site that is now known as Barangaroo on the north-eastern shore. My twin tower hotel was embedded in my mind long before I even saw the International Towers designs for the new development project. It’s freaky at how closely they match. Mine was just interconnected with a retail corridor, pool and conference area.

One of my favourite places in Sydney is Darling Harbour. I make sure I stay near here when I travel to Sydney for work or visit on holidays. Darling Harbour is a constant buzz at all hours of the day. The dining is fantastic. Having a drink watching the world go by is relaxing. The kids playground at the south end of Cockle Bay is awesome. And you can’t walk past the ice-cream or gelato shops.
#darlingharbour, #darlingharbor, #barangaroo, #ilovesydney

My heroine Jessica, loves to escape to the gorgeous Hunter Valley for her weekend getaways. I love the Hunter Valley, it is so picturesque with its beautiful green rolling hills, countless vineyards and boutique getaways dotting the countryside.

My vineyard, “GumTrees”, is totally fictitious. It is not based on any one vineyard in particular. While there are the big favourites of #Lindemans, #Tyrells and #PepperTree, I like some of the more boutique vineyards like #Lambloch, #Margans and #Brokenwood. I do love my wine! My favourite thing to do in the Hunter when I get the opportunity to visit is: 1) Drink lots of wine. (Luckily there is a lot of it around the area.) 2) Visit the Hunter Valley gardens. They are magnificent at all times of the year. 3) Have a beer at Harrigan’s Irish Pub. It’s such an awesome place in the middle of nowhere. Great accommodation, good food, fun atmosphere and has a close proximity to everything.

#huntervalleywines, #harrigans, #huntervalleygardens


Check out my Pinterest board for Propositions.


What are your tips for creating believable worlds in your stories?



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