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I’m back from Japan, where I had a lovely time with both my intimate and my extended family. We ate, drank, walked the touristy route I always walk whenever I visit (the mountain trails at Arashiyama; the shopping maze at Kawaramachi dori; the delectable tempura at Yoshikawa Inn), as well as our usual visits to friends in Tsu (where, this year, we saw the Ama divers at Toba) and Sanda (where we always get treated to the most scrumptious home barbecue). While I did all this, though, in the back of my mind, I was still thinking about the men and women of Fearless.

The story takes place mostly in the fictional village of Harbram, based loosely on lovely Porthtowan, along the north Cornwall coast, where I have extended family on the other side. It’s more than a stone’s throw from Kyoto, of course, but the principles of writing it are the same ones I took for writing characters in Japan.

The cliffs at Porthtowan, inspiration for Harbram

First, there’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in the culture of your characters, especially your main character. Not everyone can indulge in a two-week vacation in their MC’s culture or experience it firsthand, but there are ways around that. Read up on your subject: history, lifestyle, idiosyncrasies; the Internet is a bountiful and endless source of information about this sort of thing (also many times erroneous, so do be certain to double-check your resources). Talk to people who live the lives of your characters, in experience, background, even outlook. With so much programming out there, it’s likely you can even find some television shows or movies about your subject! (Be mindful of artistic license with this one, though.)

All this is to say, you don’t have to rely solely on your imagination to create the world in which your characters live. Many times, you shouldn’t rely only on your own brain, because you will probably be missing out on a lot of important facts or details that can end up making or breaking your story. (I cringe every time I read a story set in Japan where characters do not take off their shoes before entering the house!)

There’s a lot of information available at your fingertips. Use it to build a full, lush, beautiful world in which your characters will play, dream, cry, and live.

Porthtowan’s Mount Hawke footpath, the inspiration for my Crow’s Point path.

What techniques do you use to create your characters’ world?