Add touches of local color with a bit of research.
Research is one of my favorite methods for finding the bits of realism for injecting realism into a fictional narrative. It’s all about being specific.
Instead of simply telling our readers where our characters are — a dank basement in 1950s New York, for example — we break it down. Add some interesting details.
For our particular basement, we can look at a few photos, or recall a memory of a basement scene in a scary movie. We can use our memories of other basements to build a mental picture of our basement, and add a few touches of reality from the correct era.
What would we expect to find in the basement of this particular old house in the 1950s? Broken and discarded toys? Empty canning jars? Old crates and newspapers? Some specific items, recognizable as being from the 1950s, to add that flavor to our narrative — a model train set, toy soldiers, a rusted and broken Radio Flyer wagon.