I need ideas on how to describe a prison. I don't know how to start my story that is about a guy in prison. Also, I must reflect on loneliness. Please help, thanks. I'm talking about a prison in California during the Great Depression.
When I want to describe a location, I use the following techniques:
Browse Google images for pictures of the location to get initial inspiration and a feel. I find pictures of these places often have details I hadn't thought of. I recently described a prison cell myself and the pictures showed me rats and a bucket under the sleeping bench, when I had been preoccupied only with the walls and size of the place.
Try to jot down some words for each of the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Words, phrases, images, ideas. By thinking about each sense in turn your inspiration will hopefully be sparked.
I do a word brainstorm to list a bunch of words that relate to the theme location, without trying to hang them nicely in sentences and paragraphs. Then when it comes to writing the description properly I can dip into them as I wish. Allowing the brainstorming gives the mind freedom to come up with more interesting concepts.
If you already know it is California, Depression-era, then pick a real prison and use that as a setting. If you can find a prison that somebody has written a comprehensive book about, then choose that prison and get that book. It may have maps and descriptions of what life was like there.
There are many books about what it is like to be a prisoner, and about particular people who were imprisoned. Get one of those, too. Ideally from the same era. If from the actual prison you have chosen, that is even better.
Those books form the foundation of your research.
You have to know what prision you are talking about: modern, old, with security... Then, you could look for some pics and information in order to know what are you describing aproximatetly.
Then, when you know everything you have to know about the prision, start writing. You can start with an explanation about you character are looking at, like: After that those two cops leaved me here I sitted in a corner of this little and unclean prision. Everything is dark and lacking of life here. I only have that tiny window with too many iron bars.
Just let your imagination get out!