1. Zetta
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    Zetta Member

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    Fictional Cities...?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Zetta, Dec 24, 2007.

    I want to write (for like the first time ever) a semi-realistic piece. Meaning that it is set in this world, and thus entails a realistic town of some sort. I don't really like using real cities, seeing as I've been mostly confined to this one-horse town out here in the countryside and would have no real experience. But what do I do with the town? Do I conveniently forget to name it or neglect to mention it's location? Do I pick a random state and say it's there, or what?

    I've seen some approaches recently that I've been toying with. For example, in a book I read (forgot its name, unfortunately) the MC called the town "Dullsville", and never actually gave it a name. In another, the city was fictional and was cut off from everywhere else with a desert and a mountain range and never given an actual location.

    I guess I'm just confuzzled... :p
     
  2. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, this all depends on the rest of your story. Does your novel play a big part in the novel or is it just mentioned for a little bit. Does someone actually got there or is it just mentioned?? You need to think about all of this. If the city plays a big part then you have to develop the city some more, give it a name and lots of description I think. Even if the charector only visits for a day you need a fair bit of information. Not nessesarily about the city as a whole but enough to let the reader know where he is and that it is a city or town and not leave them confused.

    I hope this helps anyways, Zetta.
    Heather
     
  3. Zetta
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    Zetta Member

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    As far as I can envision it, this city should be the limit of the setting, meaning that the whole story would take place there. I'm thinking a small to medium sized town, where you can't go to the grocery store without meeting somebody you know. In other words, something like where I live. I know I'll need to develop it much more from that vague description, and I figure I'll have no trouble with the interior elements of the town. My problem will be making the town part of the world... like, connecting it to the real world, if you get what I'm saying. Where do I put it?
     
  4. MarcG
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    MarcG Contributing Member

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    Hmm. I've never really noticed it but I do remember H. P. Lovecraft doing something similiar in Shadow over Innsmouth. Just pick a name you like, plunk it down wherever you want, and make sure it's not already a real town in that state/locality. ;)
     
  5. ThreeSided
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    ThreeSided Banned

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    Is your story narrated omniscient, or first person?

    If your story is first person, then it depends on what type of person it is. Are they an intellectual? Average? Or are they artistic? Use this to decide how they would present themselves, and maybe information about themselves, including where they live.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why does it have to be 'connected' to any particular state or neighboring city in the 'real world'?... does anyone leave the town in the course of the story?... if so, do we need to know where they go, or can it just be to the 'big city' or whatever?...

    do any of the plot elements rely on this town being in one place or another?...

    bottom line is that unless a particular state and/or nearby city is crucial to the plot, you don't have to identify the locale of the town... this is done all the time, so it's no big deal...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  7. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Another style writers adopt is identifying the town/place (I personally use this), but using the concept of alternate reality so any major event that occurs is justified and easily explained. However, if you don't have an crucial need to identify a locality, as mammamaia said, then don't. Simply stick to the facts you stick on Earth. Gravity, humans and so on.
     
  8. Zetta
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    Zetta Member

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    Mmkay, thanks, guys. I guess I'm just a little paranoid. :p
     
  9. UnknowingWriter
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    UnknowingWriter Member

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    Thats a good book.
     
  10. Manny
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    Manny Member

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    Is it an American town? I ask because an English town would not usually be called somethingville, as that tends to be an Americanism.

    And why not use a real town? Maybe the town will become famous in the future. :D

    I just saw your location by your avatar, I recently did some business with a guy from Cashiers, thats a helluva name!
     
  11. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    Well, if it's pretty much like your town...is there a reason you can't just use your town? That's what I did with a few of my stories, and it's always fun imagining exciting things happening in dull places that you're otherwise quite used to.
     
  12. Glen Mayberry
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    Glen Mayberry New Member

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    Fictional Cities=Fictional Governments

    Remember a fictional City is like a fictional government. IN Iraq for instance, there is a fictional government but with real cities. These cities in themselves have no government either. Just think about that and remember that you will have to have a fictional government in your city. Glad to be of help and I hope that this item will help you.......... Glen Mayberry
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Consider that the Simpsons live in Springfield, and we have a pretty detailed view of that municipality. Of course, we know it's in America, but we don't know what state.
     
  14. Bluemouth
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    Bluemouth Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was hilarious in the movie when they stated Springfield borders Ohio, Nevada, Maine and Kentucky.
     
  15. Shreyass
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    Shreyass Senior Member

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    Just completely come up with your own town or city, spend some time populating it with believable characters, thinking of a street plan, of landmarks etc, and plop it down anywhere in the world.
     
  16. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    No, Shreyass, that's completely wrong. You've got to put some effort into making the city work, or it will show up in the final draft- even if it never makes it into the final cut, you have to know as much as you possibly can about the city. You have to know where people go to get certain things, how various districts work, where the districts are, when parts of the city were built (and who built them, in relation to who built the first part), why the city was built where it was, how the city 'lives' (food, resources, money). Believe you me, it will be worth it in the end.

    But realistically, the only reason to use a false setting is if you are going to mock the establishment- if the government in said false setting is corrupt. (never, ever, ever put a corrupt government in a real city) Otherwise, you might as well use somewhere you really know.
     
  17. Shreyass
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    Shreyass Senior Member

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    But why can't a person come up with all that?
     
  18. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    Uh...no...really, it doesn't always have to be that way...
     
  19. SeaBreeze
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    SeaBreeze Banned

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    ^Agreed
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not necessarily. Think of the city as a character in a story. How much you need to know depends on the role of the city in the story.

    As for other reasons you may not wish to use a real city, you plot may require destroying landmarks, or you may need the city to contain certain features that aren't all present in cities you know of (coastal location but isolated from most of the mainland by a ring of mountains, for example).

    There is no need to engineer an entire city if you only need a car chase to take place through narrow streets, over a drawbridge, and down to the docks, any more than you need the life story of a character who is only in the story as a somewhat disreputable witness to a crime.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... ivan and cog have nailed it... listen up...

    hugs, m
     
  22. SeaBreeze
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    SeaBreeze Banned

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    It's good to have a basic layout of a fictional City. But generally go into depth only when you need to. I mean, if you are using like a cathedral that is called the Saint Augustus memorial church of Glandria City, then write the name down. Becuase you may need to use the name again, it helps especially when you are writing a novel series as it's to do with continunuity. I mean, if you have a certain cafe that your character go to- remember the name, think of the layout and the colors of the cafe, slip te description in but yeah, I like to have a general plan of my own fictional city. I doon't draw maps but I have a vague I dea where the city lies, it has a harbour and a few beaches so it's on a coast, there are outskirts and so on so forth but I don't draw every street on a piece of paper.

    So I would say remember names of streets, places yoru character frequeants or goes to and just a general layout of what your area is like because unless you specifically name every bush, tree or animal and the streets they are on etc, there' probably no need to go into specific detail.
     
  23. B-Gas
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    Regardless as to how much depth you decide to go into, you have to know the city better than the readers, by a mile and a half. If it's a passing-through city, sure, don't bother, just give it enough detail to be unique and send the characters on their way. However, if the city is the main part of the novel- if everything takes place within it- you probably should get at the very least a basic grasp of where everything is, and how it all works together. Perhaps I was being a bit over the top with my last points, but just slapping a bunch of landmarks together and calling it a city is decidedly risky.

    This is true about all stories- only go into as much depth as is necessary, but be capable of going in twenty times as far. You don't need to map out every resident, but there should be things happening that don't even enter into the novel- or do so only through other character's moods, et cetera. You should know where- in general- to send a character to get any basic thing. Food from the market uptown, drinks at the bar downtown, et cetera.

    It's also useful to know how far things are apart, for timing reasons. You don't need every street, but you should know your city better than anyone else- certainly better than your readers.
     
  24. Master of Shadows
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    Master of Shadows Member

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    You all have some good points. My only advice is to have fun when designing a setting. Put whatever you want in your town--it's your town! Once you have a general layout pictured in your mind, it might be easier to pick the state or other location where your town is. Like B-Gas said, make sure you know the town the best and remember that you don't have to describe every little detail about the town in your work. Just put enough in so a reader wouldn't be confused about where the characters are and what that part of town looks like.

    Hope some of that made sense.
    ~~Shadow
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I still don't see the need to plan any more than you will be using. When you need a grocery store or a bar, that's time enough to place it in relation to everything else you've already placed.

    So why NOT plan ahead and place more than you need at a time? Because the plot may suggest some relative placements that may not have occurred to you before you reached that need in the plot. You might, for example, realize that you need a hospital to be within a block or two from the courthouse, because a gunman who opens fire at a judge flees to the nearby hospital, and all the patients and staff mean the pursuing police can't risk using their weapons without a clear safe shot. If you had oversdesigned the area around the courthouse, you may have to start shuffling things around to accomodate it.

    Don't do more work than you need to. You may have to undo it.
     

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