You don't want your story to read like a tourism book or an atlas, so how do you make the reader feel like a part of the action and surroundings?
There are several ways you can make your reader feel at home in the locale where your story takes place. Are there any famous landmarks or statues? Maybe the story takes place close to a famous or not so famous national park. It feels like I live out in the middle of nowhere, but I am only about 20 miles away from Natural Bridge State Park. People from all over the world come to visit this little state park and to go rock climbing.
What are the local hangouts? Usually the teenagers pick one or two spots to hang out and talk after school hours or in the evening. The adults have other places they like to meet - like the park so their children can play, the library, or maybe a restaurant or local bar. Senior citizens tend to sit on benches in the park or take walks together. If there is a lake or river nearby, there could be a group of people that prefer to hang out by the water.
What restaurants line the streets of this town? Are delectable aromas wafting out of them at all hours? Are the restaurants close to grocery stores, so that the shoppers will want to buy more groceries? Or do these aromas just tempt them to go out and eat after they are done shopping?
No matter where you go, there is chatter going on. People are talking about what is for dinner, what the weather is like, an upcoming football or basketball game, local political races, local catastrophes, or local crimes. Allow your reader to eavesdrop on some of these conversations. Does the town have slang common only to them or a special local dialect? Be sure to make some reference to it. Allow your reader to become involved in local events and see how important these events are to the characters in your story.
What are the streets like? Have they been freshly paved with blacktop? Or are they old and full of holes? Maybe they are simply dirt or gravel roads. In the town I grew up in, some of the streets were made out of brick. They are beautiful, but terribly slick in rainy or snowy conditions. If the roads are freshly paved, does the smell of hot blacktop still linger?
Look around you. What types of trees, plants, and flowers are native to this locale? Does their fragrance fill the air? You donít want to sound like an atlas or a tourism book, so be sure and describe the fragrances. Donít just name the tree or flower.
What species of birds can be heard singing, seen flying around or sitting in the trees? Are the local residents more partial to dogs or cats? Are there a bunch of exercise buffs out jogging or walking?
What about the air? Is it dry and acrid? Or is it humid? Is the smell of an approaching thunderstorm in the air? Is there a gentle breeze or a gusty wind?
Is it raining gently? Or is there a torrential downpour, complete with thunder, lightning and high winds? How strong are the winds? Yesterday there was a pretty severe thunderstorm at my house. It rained 1.52 inches in just half an hour. The water that covered my road was forced back up hill by the angry winds.
No need to worry if you have never been to the locale where your story is taking place. The internet is a treasure trove of information. If your locale is a real city, use Google maps to visit it online. Take advantage of the satellite views they have of it. You can go down the streets, take a look at houses and businesses, or just look at the native foliage of just about any city in the world. My husband is a truck driver. He uses it to see exactly where he needs to take his truck to pick up the vehicles he has booked, or if he needs them brought to him because his truck just wonít fit through the streets. A satellite view of where your story is taking place allows you to see what it really looks like, only the smells and sounds are absent.
Thanks to the wealth of information available on the internet, you can take your reader, and yourself, just about anywhere in the world.