How much does your choice of place or location influence your story?
The short answer is—significantly. My advice, therefore, is to write about places you are familiar with in order to retain a sense of realism.
But this is not always possible. Your story might demand exotic locations you’ve never visited, or include character types you’ve never encountered. After all, not many of us have flown into outer space or tangled with aliens.
Thankfully, we have research and imagination to rescue us, because, make no mistake, location deeply influences plot and character. Without an understanding of the physics of acceleration on weightlessness, stories such as 2001 A Space Odyssey, Apollo 13, Space Cowboys, Interstellar, and countless of others, would not have been as convincing.
“The influence of location on your story should not be underestimated. Location shapes the narrative by placing unique temporal and spatial constraints upon it.”
In Before the Light, much of the plot taps into the challenges that space presents to the crew of the space station, Gravity. The story which unfolds in this inhospitable environment, coupled with a seemingly rogue quantum computer, would not be as effective if it took place on earth.
The Great Gatsby required an understanding of 1920’s America, including prohibition, in order to tap into the ambience and motivation of the plot and characters.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula would not work without the cavernous castle in the Carpathian mountains of Romania, or the English setting of the protagonist’s love interest.
In short, write about places and people you know. Failing that, conduct research by visiting the locations you intend to describe, watch documentaries on the subject, or conduct interviews with people who are familiar with it. Your writing will feel more authentic for it.
Since location does indeed influence the story, write about places and people you know. Fill in the gaps through imagination and meticulous research.