Different Time, Different Place

Staying Inspired When Writing in a Place / Time I’ve Never Experienced

By Jeff Salter

Topic: How do you stay inspired to write a story set in a time and/or place that’s totally different from where you are?

I thought I had covered one aspect of this topic in a fairly recent post about research… but I cannot locate it. Maybe I blogged it elsewhere… or maybe I dreamed it. Whatever — here goes:

A place / period that I’ve never experienced, but is featured in one of my novels, is the “Wild West” of the 1880s. In many respects, that was NOT a stretch for me… as I had spent many of my childhood years BEING a cowboy. [Well, at least the Hollywood and TV versions of cowboys, lawmen, and outlaws.]

In fact (after I began my research for my novel) it was a big eye-opener for me — that people dressed so differently and lived in such different conditions… than what I’d seen on the big screen and television during my formative years. [Note: picture the gaudily-clad Roy Rogers on a real 1880s cattle drive.]

To conduct this research, I began with reading three of the most famous Western authors – Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and Max Brand – and added several new authors who’d received high review marks for their authenticity. I didn’t stop at fiction, of course. I scoured the Internet for details about apparel, food, terminology, etc.

Want to know what I learned, overall? That I’d be a LOT more able to cope with the creature comforts of the Hollywood / TV versions of the Wild West!

Here’s a bit more about my research into classic westerns and famous western authors:

Another example (of a different time/place) was my novel set in Western France during the Normandy Invasion in World War II. I felt quite comfortable in that setting, as I’ve read many scores of books and many hundreds of articles on various aspects of that war. That said, I read or re-read two or three books which dealt specifically with a particular division / regiment / battalion in those early hours of D-Day. I wanted my facts to be as accurate as possible… and certainly did not want to place elements of those units in the wrong places or at the wrong times.

Though I would never wish to experience the hardships and sacrifices of actual combat, I believe I could find a degree of comfort with that WW2 era. Well, if not “comfort” per se, at least familiarity.

Here’s a blog about time travel itself… which is KINDA related:

Question: What about YOU? Ever written about a time / place you’ve never experienced? Was it EASY to “get into” that setting?

[JLS # 553]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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10 Responses to Different Time, Different Place

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Great topic. Have I ever written about a time and place I’ve never experienced? You betcha, considering 9 of the 10 books I’ve published are set in the early 18th century. Most are set in locales I’ve never seen. But I do a TON of research to get my book as authentic as possible. On just about everything—fashion, speech, ships, architecture, tools, landscape, weather, medicine, how long does it take to sail between locations, how deep is the water at port, the superstitions of the time, and so much more. I LOVE to research and have spent countless hours doing it! And so by extension, yes, it is fairly easy for me to “get into” the setting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I can’t recall the title right this minute, but I read one of yours last year, I think. I was quite impressed by the descriptions of the tavern setting, the general atmosphere around a port town, the people and particulars of ship-board life, etc.
      You did a great job in the 18th century!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad that you are back in the saddle here,Jeff, (allusion intended). Your research in very obvious in your time-travel works.
    I fortunately wrote something quickly on Tuesday and will put it up for tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t need polishing. I was in the ER yesterday and cannot tax my brain. See Facebook for a quick explanation.


  3. So happy to see you back, Jeff.

    Yes, research into a different time and place can really open your eyes to the mistakes Hollywood has made in certain movies. They weren’t counting on writers to be a part of their audience, I guess, or they didn’t care. Probably the later. 🙂

    You know I just published my story, Ko’olau’s Secret, which was set on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. I’d never been there, but Arnie had served in the Army at Ft. Shafter on the island and had filled my head with stories of the history, culture, and people of O’ahu. It intrigued me, so I had to write a story located there in today’s time. Still, a lot of research was involved, not only because I’d never visited the island myself and Arnie couldn’t remember everything from when he was there, but because I wanted the reader to feel as if they were visiting the island and watching the events unfold. It took a lot of reading time and online conversations, making new friends who were born there or had lived there for a good part of their lives. Friends I hope to keep forever. And, according to what I’m hearing from all of them, I nailed it. YIPPEE!

    My favorite stories to read are those from the regency period in England, Ireland, and Scotland. It’s easy to see who has done their research and who didn’t, after reading all of Jane Austin’s old books (I had acquired the oldest copies I could lay my hands on when I decided to get and read the collection).

    Again, nice to have you back. Take care of yourself.


    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks for the words of welcome. These past 3 weeks are the first time I’ve missed posting since our blog began in Feb. 2011.
      Love this quote: “…I wanted the reader to feel as if they were visiting the island and watching the events unfold.”
      That’s exactly the sense the I go for when I’m writing… and, hopefully, attain it.


  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    It’s so nice to have you back! I’ve missed you here and on Facebook. I watched those same cowboy shows that you did as a child. The Roy Rogers version was lots of fun, wasn’t it? I also love to study the World War II era.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks, Elaine.
      Yeah, as a kid, I loved watching Roy Rogers. For many years I wanted a Golden Palimino horse like Trigger.
      A few years ago, I saw a short clip of an old Rogers movie. I know I would have loved it as a kid, but as a grown-up, several decades later, it was decidedly corny.


  5. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Good to see you back, Jeff. I loved the TV westerns of the 60s and 70s, and was so disappointed when I learned about the inaccuracies portrayed in them. I think that may have started my interest in history and I started watching documentaries instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Oh, yes — I also love documentaries on the Old West. I’ve learned a lot of things I didn’t know — and that many things people have believed for generations are simply untrue — about some of the most famous names (gunfighters, lawmen, etc.).


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