1. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Real or fictional city?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Poziga, Feb 29, 2016.

    Hello. :)

    I've seen a couple of threads with similar title, but after reading them and considering the number of forum members I can say that even though my problem sounds the same in the title, it is a bit different. :)

    I was on a student exchange in Nottingham, England (returned one month ago) and I started to write a semi-autobiographical novel, something similar to Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise.
    The story is basically a portrayal of student life there/England, I am writing about a group of students (to spice things up, I also added an exchange student, a couple of chapters will be written from his perspective as he travels around the Isles) and their shenanigans.

    I want to use Nottingham for my city in the novel, but I am slightly afraid. I don't know how it is with the useage of real public places in books. For example, if my characters go to a certain real bar in Nottingham and they hated it and I write that, there's nothing wrong with that? Where is that limit when you can't use real names of bars, clubs, brands because of legal affairs?

    This (irrational) fear made me think of using a fictional city, but I prefer using Nottingham, I know it quite well and now I also have friends there if I need to find out some things about the city. :)
    Plus, the size of Nottingham is very similar to my home city, so there's also a benefit.

    I'm sorry if this is sort of a stupid question, but I hope you can help me.
     
  2. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    The only thing to be wary of would be defamatory statements, such as "the owner is a such and such" or "they do this and that there" when it is not true. You could implicate people and damage their reputation. Otherwise if it is simply a case of your characters hating a certain place, I don't see a problem.
     
  3. neuropsychopharm
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    neuropsychopharm Active Member

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    Why not real city with fictional settings within, such as the bar?
     
  4. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    So in terms of the "Real City vs. Fake City" question, I almost always come down on the side of REAL - especially if you know the place. Kn0wledge helps - street names, local culture, landmarks, cuisine - those things all add to books. I moved the setting of my own book from New York to Washington, DC early on in my writing, because I live in Washington and know Washington so much better. I can't fool New Yorkers either :). If you're going to do a real city you DON'T know, that takes more research to get right, but it's not impossible (and it doesn't sound like it's a problem for you, since you known Nottingham.)

    Now, as for using real BUSINESSES, that's a bit stickier. I'd frankly only do it if the place is iconic to locals and you're going to be nice. If it's not iconic and you're going to be a little mean (which is fine - we all go to places that we think suck) then I'd go with a fake business name - even if it's modelled after a real business.

    Oh - and there's absolutely no problem with putting fake businesses in real cities. That's done all the time.
     
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  5. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    It's worth bearing in mind that British libel law is pretty stringent (not as bad as France but still). However; in general terms a work of fiction can only be held to be libelous if an average person clearly understands that the character is supposed to be this person and that person's reputation was damaged by that. This in practice means that in a work of fiction you only need to be really wary of public figures and even then you are free to give your opinions of them; you are just not allowed to state unambiguous facts about them. A popular tactic for authors writing this sort of work has been to depict someone as so disgustingly unpleasant that the target doesn't want to stand up and tell a court why this notorious pedophile is obviously a depiction of them and that's been generally pretty successful. So seriously; don't worry about this at all. A name change will be good enough unless you are deliberately targeting someone for criticism.

    In a wider sense I wouldn't worry at all about using a real city. It'll help ground you book in reality in a way that a fictional place couldn't ever have. It'll also give you a place to draw from to ensure your narrative has a consistent compass. You can actually look up times and distances and make sure it lines up and that's important. Especially notable is that Nottingham isn't quite unique but there aren't many places in the UK with trams and I could absolutely recognize the city center from description even only having been there a couple of times. So don't worry. Just write it. You'd have to say something seriously uncool about the place to have problems.
     
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  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    And for what it's worth, you can bend real cities. Stores can exist that don't really exist. You can swap out out the names of major brands like Coca-Cola for made up stuff. People forgive that because it's part of the nature of fiction, especially with copyright. Personally, I use a trick that no one will ever notice unless they read closely but that ensures I don't use real houses for my characters' homes - every time I give a residential address, it's exactly one digit off the end of a real block. If the house is on X Street, I use Google Maps to check the addresses, and if the addresses on the 2400 block of X Street are labeled 2400-2450, my character lives at 2451 X Street.

    Nobody will ever notice or question that, but I've lengthened a bunch of city blocks - and it would still be considered realistic.
     
  7. Cervo
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    Cervo New Member

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    This is an interesting question with two answers, both of which allow you to write about Nottingham, which you seem determined on doing anyways. Making it a fictional Nottingham will allow you to freely add your own...anything really, to the Nottingham you know. It allows readers that have never been to Notthingham to relate with it more I believe. You can also choose a new name which might give the city a more dramatic appeal.

    Writing about the real Nottingham you can easily still add your own bar, street corners etc., other small stuff that is. Using real ones does however give an interesting detail, especially for readers that are either in Nottingham or will travel there later. You are restricted to Nottingham's cityscape (which can be good or bad). Both answers can result in an interesting story which can be meaningful in two different ways. Good luck.
     
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  8. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you very much for your answers, you've been helpful. :)

    I decided to stick it with the real city and if needed I'll add my street or a bar. :)

    Thank you. :)
     

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