When I begin my journey into a new story, I find I like to begin with the setting. The WHERE to set the romance can be a hard decision to make. We have to decide if we're going someplace local or far away. A place we've actually been to or a place we'd love to visit. A destination that's ordinary or exotic. Even real versus imagined!
I began setting my stories in places I knew or had been to personally. I live in Arizona, and have been to Sedona and can see the Superstition mountains no matter where I'm at. I've even been to Las Vegas, where one of the stories ventures. All PERFECT settings for my paranormal series, The Brethren. Years ago, I visited an island in between the forks of Long Island, in New York, called Shelter Island. Great name and cool island to base my dark paranormal series, Book Waitress.
Having been to places already affords us the luxury of being our own primary source of information. We know what the architecture is like. We remember how the air felt- humid or dry- and if our hair curled from the mugginess. We know when we can properly place a severe storm, be it snow or rain. And our knowledge goes on to feed our descriptions.
If we set our romances on places we've never been, we need to be able to tap into someone's brain and cull as many sensory experiences as we can to bring this new setting to life for reader engagement and enjoyment. I typically use online research which entails looking at many photos, visiting sites like travel sites, and even contacting travel blog writers for their personal take on that particular setting. If at all possible, I reach out to folks on social media to see if anyone has been to where I'm setting a story. Sometimes, that works out nicely, as in Finding Lost, that's set in Isla Mujeres, an exotic locale, and Burning Sage, set in Santorini, another exotic destination.
What if my setting is completely fictional? I will base the foundation of this fictional place on somewhere I do know. In a dystopian novel, I could base it on a city I've been to or lived in and totally imagine how it might look after a monstrous disaster of some kind. We've all seen dilapidated buildings at one point and streets that have fallen into disrepair. If not, hello internet!
If I were to write science fiction, however, I can pretty much nix that idea because I'm no astronaut, nor can anyone live on any planets in our solar system yet. So, that requires... research again, and a great imagination for what you want to see in a space setting.
So what's my favorite setting to use? The one that suits my story line the best!
Happy reading and writing!