1. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Any appeal in using locality?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by carsun1000, Apr 15, 2015.

    Just wondering if you find yourself using the street you grew up on, a place you had lunch at, or a city you know like the back of your hand in your work to attract readers to pick up your novel. I've lived in several states (military service) and I tend to use those places as the backdrop of my stories which I as the author can relate to. My question is does it really matter to the reader whether the action happened on Spring Hill Avenue or on any random street in any random city? Thanks to google map, you could actually write a novel and place it in Fairbanks, Alaska when you live in Barstow, California. Do you consider using locality to expand on the background (location and its history or tourist values) as a filler or part of the work? Do you just want to jump into the action or read up to it? Just trying to figure this part out. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I usually write sci-fi or alternate-history stuff, so I don't set my stories in any real, familiar place. That said, unless I was intimately familiar with the setting, I don't think it would matter. Sure, millions of people know New York City pretty well, and may delight in finding familiar locations in a story set there, but how many people know Pefferlaw, Ontario? Probably about sixteen, even though it's a real place. You could set a story there and nobody would care - it's as if it's a fantasy setting.
     
  3. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When it comes to locations, I take a lot of inspiration from my own experiences and knowledge. That doesn't mean, however, that I limit myself to places I've been. I might take the layout of the streets, the homes and shops, etc. from my home town, mix it with another place I know well and then claim it's all a district/block in a city on the other side of the globe. ;) That way I don't have to bind my story to places where I've been (or places that exist, even), but I can still describe them as if I'd been there.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I anchor most of my writing in and around New York. When I write about other places, I do as much research as I can if I can't actually get there (as was the case when I decided to write about Cuba).
     
  5. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I guess it would depend on whether the story had any particular connection to the place. If not, I don't think it matters, and I've read novels where the author's obsession with describing the place the story was set got in the way. Read anything by Linda Fairstein to see what I mean.
     
  6. Ozzy
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    Ozzy Member

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    As said above, it depends on what I'm writing. I have been to a few states but I try to stick with what I know. If I want to make the setting somewhere I don't know, I try to do research and find people that can give me a good idea of what I'm looking for.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Some of my sci-fi or fantasy stories, mainly the shorts, don't feature any locality. It's hard to work in locality on space ships or the moon - lol.
    But my novels feature bits and pieces of my hometown and the nearby city. Some are exact replicas.
    One novel that features a teacher having a breakdown takes place predominately in my hometown in the 80's. The teacher lives in the house of an old friend in a section of cottage-like houses near a scrubby little patch of beach. I loved the whole set-up both as a visual and a metaphor - the curbless streets spoke out from a circle of houses creating a kinda wheel-like image. I even had the man teach at my old middle school blocks away. Because of the content of the story however, everything was renamed.

    In another novel that goes back a ways I was inspired by a childhood friend's residence - that has since been torn down. It was a house that had been divided into apartments rather awkwardly and I used it's weird set-up, tweaked for drama, as the basis of a story.

    Moonlight, my Advantage takes place at a childhood friend's cottage. The rocks out in the water were really there. I only added some things to help with the story and what memory couldn't supply.

    In the novel I'm working on now there is a lot of similarities between my hometown and the town I've created. I actually used an old map to inspire mine. But everything is somewhat exaggerated. There is the beach I remember as a child ( since then it's eroded ) but I've turned the golf course on it's coastline, into a country club. I've made a class division separating rich from the poor. I've added a cannery and flanked the town with cliffs. Some of the shops I've paid homage to and favorite hangouts but I've kept it old school. There's been so many changes within the town that it doesn't have the charm I remember and it's something I'm trying to recapture.

    I don't think I'll ever call any of the towns by my hometown's name simply because I would find that too restricting. And if/when I sold the book there might be some flack from the residents.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I too grew up in the military and then joined the military myself right from high school. :) My stories don't take place in the "real world" so it's not something that comes up, but... Just my opinion, I find that sometimes ( I said sometimes) the author who does this sort of thing forgets that for all the names and cross-streets I am given, if I don't know the place in question, all these referents bring up blank files in my mind. They don't connect to real things unless the author writes those connections in.
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually moved my story from it's planned NYC setting to Washington DC where I actually live - because I know the lay of the land and can write it convincingly as a local. NYC would have worked but it would have taken a lot of research time that I'd rather use of secondary locations and deep background. Plus I already know enough to think about where things are or could be. Actually I placed my characters' future workplace at a big vacant arena near my house - so I literally walk by the future site of "WWN Plaza" on a regular basis and can physically look at the site, place the stores and cafés, etc. I can get ideas just walking around.

    But I still do a lot of secondary locations that require research.
     
  10. bossfearless
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    bossfearless Active Member

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    It works, but I'd make sure you still live there or at least reasonably nearby. If you're doing a location-specific piece you need to make sure it's authentic. Take the Dresden Files for example. Jim Butcher eats, sleeps and breathes Chicago and still lives in the area, so he can go in and out and around the neighborhoods, use the exact street names, know what kind of trees are planted outside a specific building things like that.
     
  11. mclaire22
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    mclaire22 Member

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    It depends on how 'aesthetic' you want your novel to be...for example the Bronte sisters were deeply attached to the moors they grew up on, and this foggy, melancholic vibe really worked well to imbue their work with a certain 'mood.'
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If you're not sure of your setting, do research—then fictionalise it.

    If you want to write a real setting using its real name, then be sure you get the details right. Sure as you're born, if you don't ...no matter how small the place is, somebody who DOES know it will read your book. In fact, if your book is set in a small, but real place, you can be danged sure that locals will flock to read it. So don't just pick a small (or medium) town at random and think you can get away with making up details about it. Much better to pick a small town or two, use them as templates, and fictionalise the details about them.

    Of course if you're writing 'realistically' you will need to name large cities and use them as they are, which means you'll need to know something about them. However, you can make up people who live in a city, and maybe not name an exact address where they live, but let them live somewhere near to a real locale ...and you'll get away with this.

    It's all down to how much you want your readers to believe what you say.
     
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  13. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    I'm having a similar issue in that I've researched and found an actual location but don't want to name it because then I can get caught up in people pointing out my mistakes!

    Ironically (OP/Wreybies) it's a military base. I have one in mind after some research, but rather than name it I'll just refer to it as the 'base' and loosely describe the locale and environment. I'm hoping that will be enough. I suppose, when you think about it, there must be fiction written about Area 51, and I doubt the writers were actually there.....

    I think the danger could be that you over describe the environment because you know it so well, and the reader is, frankly, not interested.
     
  14. I Am Vague
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    I Am Vague Active Member

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    I don't use exact places, but I do use the general area of where I live, the Pennsyltuckey area. I know how weather is around here, what the land's like, what it looks like, what there is to do around here, how long it takes to get to Pittsburgh or Philly, and many other little things. It's not filler. I think it's more for immersion
     
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