1. The Eternal Learner
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    The Eternal Learner New Member

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    Real or made-up settings... your preference?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by The Eternal Learner, Jun 23, 2012.

    One of the major roadblocks I hit when I'm creating a story is whether to set my story in a real location, or whether to create my own to perfectly suit the needs of the story. I've been trawling through these threads tonight and have seen some good suggestions on both sides, but I'm just wondering what people's overall preference is and why?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I prefer real settings but that depends on the genre. I don't outright tell the readers where I've exactly set it. For example, for my first project which is an urban fantasy, It's set in Bath, UK but I never tell the reader that. From the way I describe it, I do give clues about where I might be set. The reader can decide for themselves.
    For my second project, I do tell the readers where it's set, but not what part of London it's set in. I do this to avoid having the trouble of making it 'accurate' and getting that correct 'feel' to the place. It's hard for me personally when I haven't been there. I try set my stories in within the UK, mostly Britain, since that's where I live and can give an accurate feel of how it is to live there.
     
  3. thetyper
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    thetyper Member

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    Real, with embellishments and some poetic licence, is preference but it depends on the story. Some demand real, others not so fussy, more allegorical etc.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I write science fiction. If a real setting exists that fits the needs of the story, I'll gladly use it. If not, I will create one.

    One size fits all? I think not!
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use a real place in my mind but usually don't name it, unless it's somehow required by the context of the scene in the story. Most of my stuff takes place in or around the city of Chicago, so I'll occasionally name real streets or places. More frequently, I'll have a real place in mind, but I'll just refer to it as "a Chinese restaurant" or "the mall" or something. The town where one of my MCs lives would probably be very easy to guess for someone who knows the area, but I never name it. They would have a few guesses as to which town he grew up in, as well. It's not really important to the story, but it sets the scene, at least for me.

    Even though the towns would probably be recognizable, I add fictional restaurants, etc. But I find it easier to visualize what's going on and think it adds to some of the believability of the character when I've mentioned things like the El, Wrigley Field, Lake Michigan, O'Hare, etc. I also will occasionally name other suburbs, although that's not where the action is taking place (i.e. someone asks a character where they grew up and they might respond "Northbrook," because if the other character is also from the Chicago area, saying "the Chicago area" wouldn't be what the person asking the question wanted to know.

    I guess I'd say it really depends on your story. It depends on what you need the location to provide to your story. If you're painting a portrait of a small seaside town and all its quirky denizens, that's different from portraying a group of friends who live in Manhattan. It also depends on why you chose to set it where you did -- was it just because the characters had to live somewhere, and that's where you pictured them living, or it's just convenient to have them live there? Or did you pick it because what happens in the story is heavily influenced by the place where it occurs or has a significant impact on how the character thinks and lives?

    If you're worried about getting details right, you can always have the story take place somewhere in particular in your mind, but never name it. (Unless you make an explicit reference to riding the T (Boston) or hating the Beltway traffic (D.C.), which would essentially be naming the location. But if that's the case, then there is a reason you picked that location.) Readers will assume or guess based on their own experience.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, anonymous does not equate to imaginary.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Despends on what you're writing , I guess. But even the most imaginative worlds - say Alice in Wonderland pays homage to the authors residence - Oxford.
    I live in a small town in Canada , if I was to mention it in a book and have it published they'd probably throw me a parade or throw me out of town - depending on the book. Because the town is rather a blase place - it's got suburbs , shops , a waterfront , an art district , I can spin this into anywhere U.S.A or anywhere Canada.
    My towns are fictional and usually state-less or country-less. I find at times, it just doesn't matter whether my hero is an American or a Canuck and given the fact that I often describe four seasons , I leave it to the imagination of my readers to put the town where ever they want it.
    As for my sci-fi / fantasy stories well , they're the offspring of my waterfront hometown and my imagination.
     
  8. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    I prefer real, historic places, but I'm not above taking advantages in fae glamours, time rifts, and alternate dimensions. Because I write historic, paranormal fiction, I need to do a lot of research, but that has become an aspect of my writing process I truly enjoy. Travel guides have become leisure reading...:rolleyes: Although I have a world entirely my own, I appreciate the quiet, forgotten places, the deep, occasionally dark history of the real world. There is magic, a pulse buried in these places, lending an ambiance that is hard to mimic. Made up worlds are a wonder, but are never seen through the same perspective, what the writer sees and what the reader imagines can be very different. While with an actual documented location, we have tenet point to spiral out from. It is a little more tangible.

    - Darkkin
     
  9. Reptile Hazard
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    Reptile Hazard Member

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    Since I mostly write fantasy and science fiction, they're mostly made up worlds. And to be honest, I also prefer reading about made up worlds. That's not to say I avoid reading books because they're set in the real world, but most of the time, I find the ones set in the real world boring (though, to be more specific, I only think that of the ones set in the modern real world.)
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wouldn't set a story in a place i didn't know from personal experience or a wealth of knowledge... unless, of course, i'm writing sci-fi about a place that doesn't exist anywhere in the real world...
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reptile: I love that you wrote this because it is the direct opposite of the way I feel. My absolute favorites are stories set in the real world, particularly the modern real world -- fiction that reads more like nonfiction, if that makes sense. Your comment just underscores that writers have to do whatever *they* feel is best and fits the story they have.
     
  12. Reptile Hazard
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    Reptile Hazard Member

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    Yeah, after all, no setting is better than the other. If you write your story in a setting you like, you're going to be more enthusiastic and interested in writing it in a believable way; but most importantly, you're going to enjoy writing it.
     
  13. YugiohPro01
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    YugiohPro01 Member

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    It really does depend on the story. For an example, I write stories of all genres, sometimes horror, sometimes science fiction, sometimes about real situations; In any case when writing about real situations or historic moments it's only logical to set it in a real place. You don't have to go into full detail about the place and naming everything to the last bit, but nonetheless it should be real. However, when I write science fiction, I enjoy it quite a lot because unlike other forms you have unlimited freedom. Sure you can base some situations on real historic events or places but you are free to create your world, your setting. So as for me I have to go with fictional places because of the reasons I just stated. There is simply nothing more exhilarating than creating your own world.
     
  14. Madman
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    Madman Active Member

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    I vote for creating your own settings. I love imagination, to see what the minds of others can create adds to the whole experience of reading a book.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
  15. Archer10
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    Archer10 New Member

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    Real places, fictional names.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find myself wondering about the details of "perfectly suit the needs of the story." If your story is intended to communicate some opinion or moral, and you create a setting that illustrates that without having any annoying distractions or alternative points of view, then I'd say that that's likely to be a problem. If, on the other hand, the needs are practical and not implausible ("I need a city that has a university with a civil engineering program, and a museum with an Egyptology program, and I need it to have a lot of winter fog"), I think it's fine to create that fictional place.
     
  17. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Doesn't matter if the setting is real or made up as long as you use it to create the mood, tone etc or in short, make the setting come alive, if that's making any sense. "It depends on the story you are writing" is a valid argument, but you can also have a high school romance in a super sci-fi setting.
     
  18. TheTrain
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    TheTrain Member

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    I prefer building a world just for my story; I'm really into fantasy and can't even read books about anything modern let alone write about it (maybe historic, but I still prefer fantasy). In some ways, this is actually harder than using something that already exists; in order to make it feel real then you have to add in the little details that make it real. Plus you also have to keep track of how your world works and what is going on; that's the part I struggle with sometimes, but I've developed strategies to deal with it.
     
  19. Michipanda
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    Michipanda Member

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    I kind of like blending the two, maybe even warping realities with fantasy. Such as giving the appearance of a realistic city, but certain things about the city makes it unreal. Or vague locations...like a city in Prague, though we have no clue exactly what city or where it's located. Strictly imaginary works too, nothing like pulling a freshly thought of city out the deep depths of the mind.
     
  20. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Prague is a city.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's 'in' the czech republic...
     
  22. Michipanda
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    Michipanda Member

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    Haha oh my bad, I meant Czech Republic
     
  23. Melvin Morrow
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    Melvin Morrow New Member

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    I can relate to your preference quite easily, Reptile Hazard. Personally I always go for a setting I created on my own. There has never been any real question about it, since creating a new world is among the things that really drives me, and what I find most interesting (in its way on par with character planning). It is as hard as it is easy, though. Creating a whole new world gives the writer a lot of liberty in tailoring the world to the plot somewhat and maybe change the world to your particular liking, but one is also responsible for creating a solid, credible world which can be really taxing.

    It really comes down to your own preference Eternal Learner (the good ol' answer!) but also what sort of impact you wish to have upon the reader. One thing I absolutely adore is when a writer utilizes the real world, but tweaks key aspects slightly throughout an entire story. It can really hook me as a reader sometimes, since I want to learn how the writer has dealt with the consequences of her "tweaks".
     
  24. ● HEY! HEY! LISTEN! ●
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    ● HEY! HEY! LISTEN! ● Member

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    Currently using an unnamed, made-up city while frequently taking stuff from my town. I twisted the descriptions of classrooms I’ve been in. I took the bus stop I went to until the 4th grade, filled it with people and made the small shop on the side unused and graffitied. I took the neighborhood where I lived until 5-year-old and modified it. I combined and played with people’s personalities. That's how everyone gets their worlds. The are also things we don't have, trams. We have busses, trolleys, really small busses, enormous busses. The lack of trams doesn’t stop me from googling for info and pictures (too bad I don’t remember significant stuff from when I rode trams). I try to use what I have. If my town suits nothing-I go ahead and make it do. You can’t always use real locations or made-up ones, because stories are different. One may suit a bursting metropolis, and other-a cheerful countryside. It depends.
     
  25. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    I personally prefer to have my stories set in a fantasy world since I find this world way too depressing and such. For example I have a plan for a story which takes place in another solar system far away from ours in which a utopian world and a dystopian world are at war with each other. If I ever write a story that takes place here on earth I think I'll have it set in a futuristic utopian version of earth that's less depressing then the way it is now.
     

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