Last week, I attended a book talk given by four published authors. It was wonderful, as the crowd was small, so it was like chatting in your living room.
The authors were all writers of crime novels, which is not normally what I read. But all authors have valuable advice to give.
One of the questions involved how the authors made things realistic. Did they use props?
This is one of the questions that has plagued me. Do I really need to live through an experience in order to write realistically about it?
The authors had various approaches. One said that she knew little about mechanics However, one of her characters was mechanically inclined. So she asked her husband, who knows something about the subject, what skills her character would need. Another is a travel writer, so although she based some of her writing on her own experience, she also used experiences of others she had met. A third talked about how a scene just came to him, a scene that involved talking about the torture of someone.
The authors also talked about basing their physical descriptions on people they already knew. Otherwise the characters would just come out the same, short or tall, not unique like people are.
So every author had their own approach. You just need to find the one right for you.