1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it necessary to let the reader know exactly where the story takes place?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Feb 15, 2012.

    I was wondering, as I've just started thinking about a story-idea I just had, if it's really necessary to state where the story takes place? In which city and even which country?

    Because the setting doesn't have any importance for the story, it's the kind of story that could take place anywhere, because it revolves around two families, and a few other people close to them, and their reactions to a certain event in their lives. I thought of basing it on my own home town without never mentioning places with their actual name, just describing them and maybe even letting the characters names be of the kind that could be of a number of different nationalities.

    I don't want to write a novel set in my hometown, I want it to be unknown but still describe it quite thouroughly the way I see it. Maybe some people will be able to identify it from the descriptions but that is not a big issue. Would it be a bad thing to let the setting remain unknown? I don't want to make up a fictitious name either, that would sound lame I think.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see no reason to 'locate' the story if it's not important to the story. The only possible glitch would be if there are any colloquialisms or slang used that could place it - and that might then jar the reader who has pictured it elsewhere. I don't think that's any kind of a major worry, however.
     
  3. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you could get away with not stating a city -- although, as a reader, I prefer to know exactly where the story is set -- but I think it's important to let the reader know which country it is set in: words and actions have different interpretations depending on where in the world you are.
     
  4. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    As always - depends on relevance.

    I wrote a short story about a guy who was coming around from a state of unconsciousness and piecing together bits and pieces of his memories as he did so. At no point did i mention a location - it wasn't relevant to the story - the story was the journey of the character not the location.
     
  5. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yeah, it's only important to let the reader know where the story is located to the point where it lets them understand certain characteristics of the story. You might not need to tell the reader literally what city the story is set in, but maybe the fact that the story is set in a small town. Or a better example, if you ever read these urban suspense/crime/mystery stories that take place in New York or LA or some other big city... the actual name of the city probably doesn't even matter unless they use specific landmarks in said city (then again, you could easily just not name specific landmarks or make up your own). The only thing that matters in this case is that it's a big city.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting answers. :) Yoshiko, I understand what you mean about specifying the country, I guess you're right and some stuff would be interpreted differently according to culture. I guess that would be an option.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Yes. I'd like to know where the heck I am. Are we in a small village? Town? Huge sprawling city? What year is it?

    In my mystery, I'm just dropping hints here and there. Massachusetts lets the readers know it's in America. Breeches, quill pen, tricorne hat will have them rummage through the history files to guess that it's clearly somewhere during the Revolution.

    Same if I were writing in Elizabethan London. Frilly collar, talk about the Spanish Armada, Globe Theatre, etc.

    It's obvious hints, yes, but I don't want to flat out say, on page one that WE ARE IN 1770s AMERICA or WE ARE IN 1588 ENGLAND!!

    Now, the setting may not be important to the plot. My 1770s America story does not focus on the Revolution (it pratically ignores it!), nor would my 1588 England focus on the Armada and the political stuff therein (or about ol' Shakespeare for that matter), but a few key details here and there would help people figure out exactly where they are.
     
  8. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Here's another way of putting it that I just thought of. Like Link was referring to in his post.... he can drop subtle hints here and there that his story is in England. And if it's some kind of historical fiction that's probably a really good idea. You go back to my example where I was talking about a big city. I could refer somewhere that my character had to deal with downtown traffic, or mention tall skyscrapers and people will get the picture. Something to remember when it comes to describing setting... if you just say it's a city and the weather is hot and dry and downtown is very bright and noisy at night. You could easily do it that way and people would understand what is happening. Or you could just flat out say the story is set in Las Vegas and you don't even have to say all of those things because most people already know that about Las Vegas. Then again... in your mind you might picture a story set in Las Vegas, but it might not be necessary to specify further than big city with a hot, dry climate.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Link: the story is set in modern time, and I believe that will be clear from the context and the surroundings, like the presence of modern fenomenon. I was speaking more about physical place. And I might even let readers know that we're in sweden but not exactly which town. (the size of the town/city will probably be understood by context too) I might give hints though, and someone observant will pick up these hints and figure out for themselves. Would that still be a no-no?
    Agentkirb: I see what you mean, but isn't that a kind of telling vs showing? I didn't understand if you were pro or against not stating openly which city we're in.
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You mean like you won't mention a town specifically? All we know is that we're in a town in Sweden? Sure. Why not? There's been plenty of stories that were set in unspecified towns in [insert name of country].
     
  11. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    No, it's not necessary, and I'm sure there are books that do not mention location.

    But when I don't know, I keep looking back in the book, thinking I must have just missed it.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's not necessary unless it is.
     
  13. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do what's best for your story. If that includes mentioning the location, have at it. And if it doesn't, screw the name of the location. What is best for YOUR story? Figure that out, and then do it.
     
  14. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I don't think is necessary to say exactly what town or even country it is. You could always add a few hints to what country it is, if you like. As others had said, if the setting isn't that important then there's no need to place emphasis on it.
     
  15. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    It depends on your writing style.

    In Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' the main characters aren't even given a name. They are referred to as 'the boy' and 'the man'. There aren't any locations mentioned either. All you know is that the story takes place somewhere in North America.

    So yes it can be done if you write it properly.
     
  16. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I actually perfer when the writer gives a real town a made up name. So unless you live there and recognize some of the description you will never really know where the place is. So no, I don't think it's necessary to give a place a name as long as there is description to help the reader draw their own conclusions.
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really? good , because that is more or less what I had in mind, except I don't want a made up name.
     
  18. Blueflare
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    Blueflare Member

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    Lots of books don't give the specific name of the place. It doesn't really matter too much if it's not highly relevant to the story. Indeed, extraneous information can distract from the story-telling. So if you don't want to give it a name I don't see why that would be a problem.
     
  19. Becca H
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    Becca H Member

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    hmm.... witch country would be nice for the reader to know mabey the state but it is not nessisary. mabey you could make up a town that has all of the features that you need... that's what i do and it works quite well ( well i guess that wouldn't work to well if your writing a non-fiction book) but in my opinion it is not absolutely nessiasary to no exactly where the story takes place but you could have a little into like a small town like brevard did not have many things that exciting happen to it. that is of corse untill may when mr smith came to town or something like that.... :) good luck!!
     

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