I’m writing something set in Ibiza, and when I googled for a local beer, I found this gorgeous bit of packaging. I had to put it into the story. Someone take me to Ibiza for a couple of Cerveza Isleñas on the beach.
The answer is no, because you’re going to ask, I’ve never been to Ibiza. I’ve never been to London either, where this story began (and might end. I haven’t decided yet). But there’s Google and Wikipedia and Yelp and Street View.
I had this picture in my head of one character leaving the hotel after a fight with the other, then deciding to get out of the taxi and walk into town. Ibiza proper is on a harbour, I knew that, so the picture in my head looked like Victoria, a harbour city I know well, on Vancouver Island, off the coast of my province, British Columbia. I wrote the whole thing as if the character was walking from the hotel side of the harbour, along the edge of the marina, and into the downtown core.
Then I looked at Ibiza in Google street view, and, amazingly, I was exactly right. Sure, the climate is a little different (or completely opposite), but the hotels are on one side, the city on the other, and there’s a marina in the middle.
There’s a lot to be said for writing what you know. But don’t let that scare you from trying something new. I don’t even like beer, but look how pretty.