View Full Version : Writing about other countries

01-09-2012, 11:50 AM
Hello all,

I am wondering how many writers out there are writing about other countries? I live in Israel, but my novel is set in Bulgaria.


01-09-2012, 03:53 PM
Hi Ellis:

I'm Canadian, but my Canadian secret agents roam the world from Cairo to Nice to Tripoli.



01-09-2012, 04:32 PM
Do imaginary countries count? Or historical ones? (I can't help but think that this would cover a massive portion of the speculative and historical fiction writers!)

01-09-2012, 04:54 PM
I write about England, France, the USA and China, or elements of these countries come through in my work; else, I write about imaginary places.

01-09-2012, 06:22 PM
I live in the US but I am writing about England in WW1 (if they had been steampunk and a bit odd).

01-10-2012, 01:46 AM
I have written about lots of countries, less of mine.

Lately I'm in the Caribbeans in 1719...

01-10-2012, 03:09 AM
From the USA, but my story takes place in 15th century Hungary and Romania (Walachia).

01-10-2012, 03:42 AM
Scottish, living in Prague, but some stories take place in 1920s Canada, England, Egypt, France... oh, and space. ;)

01-10-2012, 04:22 AM
Hello all,

I am wondering how many writers out there are writing about other countries?

Live in the USA, but just finished a novel set in 12th C. Ireland/Scotland.

My next project is set in my native Pennsylvania.

L M Ashton
01-10-2012, 06:55 AM
I'm a Canadian living in Sri Lanka. I write stories based in... other worlds, other planets. I don't usually write stuff based on Earth. But then, I'm scifi/fantasy. :)

01-10-2012, 08:50 AM
I try to insult as many other countries as possible, not just my home country.

01-10-2012, 11:54 AM
Born in Toronto, Canada, and now live in Japan. Most of my stuff is fantasy on other worlds, although many of my characters come from Portland, Oregon or parts of the Pacific NorthWest. And yes, I have to do research on those areas just to get the place names right. (Foreign worlds need not apply, though:)).

01-10-2012, 12:18 PM
I've traveled a bit, and I am American. But I'd honestly say, there are countries I'd be more confident about writing about than some of the states here in the US. So, writing about other countries, some, easy. Some parts of my own country? I'd feel stupid trying to write about without doing extensive research.

01-12-2012, 11:59 AM
I try to insult as many other countries as possible, not just my home country.

Sir, we may be kindred spirits in that respect.

01-13-2012, 02:21 AM
I live in Israel, but my novel is set in Bulgaria.
My novel-length MS is set in Israel, but I don't live in Bulgaria. ;)

01-13-2012, 02:44 AM
Live in Germany, have setting in the USA, the UK and France. Also, in fantasy worlds and their countries. They don't count, right?

01-13-2012, 07:14 PM
I've always wondered about this myself, as I like to be as accurate as possible when it comes to setting and surrounding (I figure the paranormal beings I have populating my work are unusual enough). I want to write about characters in other countries, but as I've never been anywhere overseas, I don't want native readers to the countries I am trying to depict to laugh at my work.

A. K. Fotinos-Hoyer
01-13-2012, 07:30 PM
I live in Germany but my novels take place in the USA and Canada...and the Underworld ;)

01-13-2012, 09:18 PM
I'm from Croatia; and due to the fact that I write non fiction, I don't have some special place. I like to call myself a world traveler.:)

I'm here, there, and everywhere.

01-14-2012, 12:24 PM
I live in Scotland and write about Scotland, but I've made up an imaginary part of the country as I don't feel like I can write well about a place I know in reality. Maybe that's strange but I sometimes find too much reality gets in the way of fiction.

01-14-2012, 08:20 PM
similar to ethan above (post #2) international intrigue takes my characters to iceland, morocco, costa rica and others

01-15-2012, 03:27 AM
I'm Canadian, and I write Epic Fantasy. Soooo, I mostly make up cultures and different places. Does that count? :D

01-27-2012, 10:47 PM
I am about to start a sequel that will take place partly in Istanbul. I am American.

I beg all of you. If you are writing a story based in a country you have not been to, please have a beta reader who has spent time in that country.

I hate reading a book about a place I've been, and the writer gets the place details wrong. It is so distracting!

01-27-2012, 11:19 PM
Well you can't write about other countries until you have visited them. And when you have done that, you need to have a clear conscious and that is something most do not have.

01-28-2012, 05:32 PM
I'm Belgian and part of my novel is set in Texas (well, an alternate version of Texas, but still). The town is fictional, though.

I think Google Earth/Maps are great assets when dealing with real-world location to which you cannot physically travel—so is the Internet in general, including this forum. You can really research locations in depth.

Well you can't write about other countries until you have visited them. And when you have done that, you need to have a clear conscious and that is something most do not have.

I doubt Tolkien went to Middle Earth. ;)

01-28-2012, 08:30 PM
I doubt Tolkien went to Middle Earth. ;)
Yeah, but for his type of writing. You just needed to be cukoo.:)

D.F. Jules
02-16-2012, 10:48 AM
Am Indonesian but am writing about a town in Maine, New England. The second book though, my characters will be in Jakarta, Indonesia. It's still not where I live but at least it is in my country.

02-16-2012, 10:54 PM
The majority of the novels I start and never finish are set in other countries. I LOVE to travel, and have set novels in countries I have worked in (India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti...) but never seem to have enough information to make it completely accurate. I think it would be hard to write a book set in another country without having lived in that country at some point, or without having access to travel for research.

03-24-2012, 02:33 PM
I'm an American living in Vienna, Austria.
My novel is set in various places all over Europe. Mostly places I've visited, with one or two exceptions. But even in a city I know pretty well (Paris) I have the characters coming out of a Metro station I've never been to. Thanks for the google earth hint! I'm gonna use it to check out that station.
Reading all these posts makes me aware that I kinda got into writing because of my wanderlust. There was a period in my life when I couldn't travel, so I made up for it by writing adventures set overseas. Nothing published yet.

06-09-2012, 05:55 PM
I live in Turkey but my novel set in Netherlands, England and USA

06-11-2012, 03:15 PM
I live in Russia and I write about things that happen in 2000-3000 years from now (in a whole new world)...

06-11-2012, 04:30 PM
I've written a few short stories about other places, but I do think it's important to have a pretty firm grasp of what a culture is like if you plan to write in a location you've never been. For example, if someone wrote a short story about Kansas that was JUST about tornadoes and duststorms and how Kansas is flat with no trees, I'd probably figure that the author had never been there and they would lose some of their reliability. Even if you've never been somewhere, just take a look at Fromer's or another travel guide, read some blogs from the area, etc, and you can have a fairly decent idea of what life is like there.

06-11-2012, 04:49 PM
One can;t write only about places one had been to - unless it is a travel chronicle. And even so, the way places adn things were then, might not match the present anymore...

So I advise rather to do research than limit your inspiration to places you know. Everybody wants to write about "exotic" places (what this means for each person is different), but as long as the country exists and it is not Gondor fantasy, research is a must. Besides, now, in the Internet era, research is made so easy!

06-16-2012, 09:27 PM
Maybe that's strange but I sometimes find too much reality gets in the way of fiction.

Couldn't agree more! Funny enough, my MS is set in Scotland and I live across the pond in Canada. I do have family there though, does that count?:D

06-17-2012, 01:01 AM
I live in the US but my story takes place in London. I've been there a couple of times, but I've also done tons of research into unique places within the city (abandoned Tube stations being one of my favorite) and also into British culture itself. I'm a huge Anglophile, so I enjoy doing it.

06-17-2012, 03:36 AM
I only write about places I've lived in, but yeah -- my current manuscript is set in Montreal, and I am American.

06-17-2012, 12:48 PM
I usually only write about places I've been to. No amount of internet research can equal what you experience in person, though the research will add greatly to personal experiences.

I shy from writing about places I've never been to as I feel like a fraud, and certain readers will pick up on it. Plus, I hate research unless I'm there. My fave thing to do is make up a town in an area I'm familiar with so I know most local customs and vernacular, but have the license to make up how the town runs, looks like, smells, etc. I find that's considerably more fun and creative than describing a city hundreds of writers have described before me.

Though don't get me wrong. If I visited Prague for a few weeks, got a good handle on it, and a good feel for how things operate there, I'd love to use it in a novel considering I could provide an insight to American readers, most of whom have never been there or read about it. But I have little desire to set a story in NYC or LA or Paris or London unless I have something different to bring to the table. They've been written about so much they're almost a bore.

If a scene or two takes place somewhere I'm not familiar with and doesn't have a huge bearing on the plot or characters, I'll do it. But to set an entire novel in an unfamiliar area? I'd have to visit first with a fresh notepad and pen. Wikipedia only goes so far and often gets it wrong anyway.

07-03-2012, 02:55 PM
I'm from Texas, and my novel is set in an apocalyptic Dallas, but one of my main characters is Norweigan. He wasn't a terribly interesting character at first, and I decided to change something about him to add some color. I thought I might make him from another country. Why not Norway? That little decision has completely gotten away from me, and I've been reading about Norway all over the internet and getting help with translations (he tends to talk in Norweigan when he's angry). I'm nervous about writing about a culture I'm not familiar with, so I'm reading a lot, and I'm enjoying the experience. I'm also totally in love with this character.

07-26-2012, 08:50 PM
This thread addresses a concern I've had for some time. I'm from Texas but live in England (10 years now). When I write, I get really hung up on the following:

- Setting. It's the old "write what you know"... well, England is a bit more interesting than Dallas, I think. And every time I go back to Dallas (yearly) it has changed so much, whereas the speed of change is slower here.
- Grammar and spelling: the differences are greater than some people realize/realise (!) so which do I follow?
- Where would I first try publishing: here or Texas? Do Texas people want to read about England? Do English people want to read about Texas?

I understand, of course, that plot usually determines the setting but not always. There are quite a few novels that could be set literally anywhere, but it's the mechanics of writing about/for a place that I find inhibiting.

07-26-2012, 09:41 PM
I love setting my stories in places I've visited--as long as I was there for a decent amount of time and learned enough to make the setting believable.

I'm from the US and I have a story set in England. I also have a WIP set partially in Edinburgh, Scotland. I've hung in both places and love the atmosphere.

07-27-2012, 12:42 AM
I recently finished a historical novel set on the island of Tinian in the South Pacific. Since I was stationed on that island chain nearly 40 years ago, I had a glimmer of what I was doing, but it was a faint glimmer. My POV protagonist was an orphaned Chamorro (native) boy and I had to learn enough of the language to make it realistic (thanks to internet research), but still checked with a native Chamorro language teacher (contacted on the internet.) Then I had to do a lot of research on the Pacific War, especially B-29 bombers and the atomic bomb. I found a Chamorro history expert who gave me valuable input on native culture.
In an ironic turn, I had my hero living in a leper colony and the history guy told me the colony hadn't been there during the war. I rebutted him with two historical documents I'd found (on the internet, of course) which indicated the Japanese were sending lepers to Tinian during the war. It caused a flap among Micronesian historians, but one remembered a survivor who'd mentioned a colony being there and, lo and behold, another historian found a WW2 Japanese map that included the leper colony. So, in a way, I changed history.
On other things, I made corrections so that the book is now historically accurate.
I actually enjoyed researching for the book to be more fun than writing it. The internet can give you enough info to go anywhere.
For another book, I researched 1800's slavery and the internet was again invaluable. Seems there's a university in North Carolina who has digitalized historical documents of the south and made them available online.
I'd have no reservations about setting a story anywhere in the world, because I'm willing to do the research to create verisimilitude.

07-29-2012, 11:46 PM
My book I am editing is set in england (where I live), in a small city I have been to many times as it is close to where I live. I google mapped it and used my experience to get the details, but didn't make a huge detail dump of the setting as it is shown through the eyes of a four year old boy who is not too sure of those things himself. I will add a bit more detail on the edits though as I think I went too vague on that issue.

My second book is also going to be set in england, in London. London is further away. I've been in the surroundings several times over the years, and in the actual city less times. I'm currently researching the heck out of it as in this story setting is more important. I am glad that I do have those experiences of visiting the place though, but don't think that is enough when talking about characters who live there, some who have lived there many years. So more research for that one.

My third book looks to be the one I go even further afield for. One of the characters is set in england, but the other character is going to be set in another country, I just haven't decided which yet. So I guess I'm gradually stepping further from the places I know. As I get further I am upping my research on setting as I don't trust myself to know it as well.

08-02-2012, 05:25 PM
I'm from Texas, and I'm writing a memoir about my friendship with someone who lives in Slovenia. I've been there several times but I'm no expert, so when it comes to the country it's definitely from the pov of the outsider.

08-02-2012, 08:05 PM
I have always at least visited the places where I set my stories. Although I've lived abroad, I haven't set any of my stories in those countries--yet. I think for me it's more about whether that place has made an impression on me or not. Having the pov of the outsider is actually good I think because you tend not to notice all the details about places you're familiar with.

08-04-2012, 10:26 PM
My main inspiration comes from travel--at least, that's what I tell my dh, and so far he's buying it. ;-)

I live in Canada and my novels are set in The Netherlands, Canada, and Portugal.

Petite Deborah
06-08-2013, 01:06 PM
I'm a Malaysian and I usually set my stories internationally. The book I'm trying to sell is set in Vancouver, Canada.

06-13-2013, 01:36 AM
Hi Ellis:

I'm Canadian, but my Canadian secret agents roam the world from Cairo to Nice to Tripoli.



lol... ohhh fancy!!

06-13-2013, 01:42 AM
Scottish, living in Prague, but some stories take place in 1920s Canada, England, Egypt, France... oh, and space. ;)

all of a sudden my locations dont seem dat nice anymore... i never did any in out of space :(

01-30-2014, 10:59 PM
Though I have spent a limited amount of time traveling the region, I have never lived in Romania or the Ukraine, the present day version of 4th century Dacia and Scythia in which my first novel takes place.

I have done my share of research and consulted my European friends (mostly regarding landscape and natural denizens since a fair bit has changed in 1650 years), but when the time comes I will certainly welcome additional perspectives from those with more exposure than I to these lands.

Oh, and I've lived in Canada, England, and about a third of the countries in continental Europe, but I live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the U.S presently.