1. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    Real World with Fictional Locations

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Pink-Angel-1992, Jul 18, 2012.

    I’ve recently gotten a new idea for a story, which will be set within the real world… more or less given the supernatural/paranormal element to it.

    With what I can already envision in the story, I’ll need fictional locations. I want the main part of the story to be in a fictional town, so that the area is as I want it and need it and so that I don’t have to worry about the actual locations of shops, the distance between them and names of streets and stuff. A thought of creating a small island just off the coast, maybe connected by a 10 minute drive bridge or something, has also crossed my mind.

    My question is, for these fictional locations, should I give an approximate location, saying something like ‘in between London and Oxford is…’ or a vaguer location, saying something like ‘in the South-East of England is…’?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've read a lot of teen books ( don't know if yours is going to be one ) but I've noticed that the writers tend to create a fictional town - and then tell you what state it's in to give you a basic idea where they are.
    You could leave it vague and have one of the characters say in passing it takes such-n-such time to get to
    London which will leave you a nice round perimeter for your readers.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't have to outright tell us where it is at all. By describing the geography, weather, local activities, etc. in passing when you are writing other scenes, readers will have an idea where it is. You can say it's between London and Oxford if you want to. You could also mention its in Southeast England if you like. It's really up to you.

    Like Peach said, one way to do this would be to mention that the character or his mother or someone took the train to London, so they wouldn't be back for several hours, or something.

    Regardless of whether you directly state where it is, though, you as the writer should know and write accordingly.
     
  4. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    This is a very relevant query for me as I am doing a similar thing, inventing a town in England for the purposes of my story. I have given vague indicators of location through mentioning weather (cold and wet = northwest England) and proximity to real towns, in passing. That has been sufficient so far.
     
  5. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice. I need to find a suitable location (the examples in my prior post being but examples), so I need to scower Google maps to see if I can't see a suitable area, or areas...

    Cold and wet is also North-East England!
     
  6. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    True pink angel - actually 'wet and cold'covers all parts of Britain this 'summer' :( but on a purely pedantic note average rainfall in NW is higher than NE England ;) but they are both bloody cold!
     
  7. jane elliot
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    jane elliot Member

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    I think that a vague (or broad) reference to location would be fine. Although saying something like "near Dublin," for example is more interesting than just "the east coast of Ireland," and it would give your readers something to latch onto. There's a greater chance that readers will be familiar with the features surrounding a place like London than the general region of southeast England.
     
  8. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    I have noticed this too and this is what I chose to do with the story I'm working on. Mine is a paranormal novel as well. It is set in the Detroit area, since that's where I'm from but, the characters are involved in more "underground" activities, so I will make those places up. So even readers of this story that are native to Detroit will find it believable as if they just don't know about these secret places.
     
  9. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    Many authors have created fictional towns in a current-day world setting. Sure, give the location if that is important. If it isn't, just give a general location. People are not going to take exception to a fictional town being plopped down next door. I bet hundreds of people run off to the New England countryside looking for Stephen King's fictional town of "Castle Rock" every year.

    Just make the location suitable for the sort of community you're trying to create. For instance, don't put a bunch of dairy farmers in the desert unless that's a story element you're going to use.
     
  10. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    Yes wet and cold now and yet earlier this year there were water hoss bands in places! I didn't know North-west had highter rain fall, but I think I was taugh that once in school, so I should say I forgot... :p

    Thanks for the comments. The actual location isn't important, at least I don't think so at this point in time. The only thing important to make sure readers know is that it's set in England I think.
     
  11. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Morkonan, there are several towns called Castle Rock here in the US. That is the joy of the US. It is such a sprawled out nation that chances are any fictional name you think of actually exists somewhere. Even in the region the fictional location placed it. This is quite easy too, as many fictional towns have simplistic names (Silvertown/Silverton, Forks/Forkes, etc) just as many temporary mining/trade settlements that becames towns were named.

    Thus for my urban fantasy I intentionally NEVER mention what city the story takes place in. The only brand names mentioned, for example, are ones that exist everywhere. Wal-mart, for example, has at least one store in every state in the country. There's a college where a dryad grows pot (for medicanal uses only). That's the REAL college, not that community college past the overpass where the trolls hang out. An old train station that the witches and fae converted into a bazaar. All generic locations almost any large town and city will have. It works for me because the specific locale means nothing to me. It's the characters I find interesting. It could all be taking place in your hometown for all I know.
     
  12. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I agree with CR. The locale might be useful in one sense or another, but if the exact place-name means that much to my readers, then I'm failing at the task of engaging them in my characters.
     
  13. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    At present, I have this idea that the MC and his friend are travelling to the town in order to help the friend's sibling out, who's just opened a pub (or cafe... something like that, haven't decided yet) and as thye travel into the town, the MC notices several houses that worry him, not for something creep and bad, but for those that will most certainly life in them - those of 'his world' and he really doesn't want anything to do with it. To the MC, his kind turned their backs on him, but humans help him (despite not knowing what he is) where they didn't when he needed it, therefore he wants as little to do with his kind as he possible can.

    Anyways, with what I've got imagined for the beginning at present, I think the town will be named in the story.

    I have another question; if you read a story that was more or less set in our reatlity and the writer said that it was set on a small island just of the cost of a country (still apart of it), would you be okay with it? Or would you say goodbye to the story? It just a thought that came to my mind when I started thinking about this idea.
     
  14. handknitbandit
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    handknitbandit Member

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    In my experience as a reader, I can usually infer location based on the description of the area. Does it have leafy trees or pine trees? Are there lots of days of grey? What are the local animals that live there? From these elements I picture a location, and don't necessarily need it spelled out.
     
  15. handknitbandit
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    handknitbandit Member

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    In my experience as a reader, I can usually infer location based on the description of the area. Does it have leafy trees or pine trees? Are there lots of days of grey? What are the local animals that live there? From these elements I picture a location, and don't necessarily need it spelled out. Dialect use of words like pub will also indicate the location being England-ish.

    For your other question, as a reader I would rather have a vague location then a made up island. I am the kind of reader that likes to look up what facts are true about a story and the island being fictional would ruin it a bit for me. With semi-realistic fiction I like to imagine that things like that could actually happen, and the place not existing makes the falseness of the story stand out for me.
     
  16. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    I agree with you there, like I had posted on here earlier, semi-realistic makes it a little more justified to me like these places or people could really exist right underneath our noses!
     
  17. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    Well, the point was that King's Castle Rock is entirely fictional, yet is given a fairly specific location in the US. (I'm American as well.)

    However, giving a name to a town where a lot of events take place is something that could be necessary, depending on the story. It gives the reader something to identify with and provides them with a place-name with which to associate events in the story. If a reader is constantly reading "They went to town" then they will start wondering what the town's name is. If they read a passage where something has happened in another town, they'll get confused about where the characters are or even why they're going to "town." Names are more than names to a reader, they are sometimes critical words the reader needs to remember in order to keep the events in the story coherent.

    ie:

    "I'm in town, Jamie is in town, but we are not in the same town. So, I will travel to Jamie's town. Then, we will confront the big evil in another town. But, first we have to go to town to get supplies. Not the same town, but a different town. The one where I was, before I went to Jamie's town, but not the one that has the big evil in it. Then, we will go back to Jamie's town and confront the big evil in the other town. The one that has the big evil in it, not the one I was in before I went to Jamie's town."

    Altogether, that's not terribly difficult to keep straight. But, separated out where the events are not defined so succinctly in order, but are paced over several chapters, and the reader will have trouble understanding just where the characters are.

    Of course, a story in a single town doesn't need to have a name and even a story that follows characters through multiple towns doesn't have to have one. But, if those towns are named, it makes it much easier for the reader to develop appropriate imagery that the writer may be relying on in order to carry the story forward.

    Lastly, if a lot of action happens in the town or the story revolves around that location and there is a good bit of setting and scenework within it, the reader will eventually wonder why the town doesn't have a name. That could disrupt the story and the reader may become distracted by all of these "significant" events taking place in a town that the author considers so insignificant. The reader always takes their ques from the author in regards to what is important.

    Just my two coppers. Towns don't have to have names, but it's entirely necessary in some instances, in my opinion.
     
  18. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    Thanks for the comments!

    A small island just of the coast is a no-no then. It was just a thought anyways; I'm just a little worry about deciding on a rough area for the town and the geography not being suitable. I have other story ideas; one will be set on a fantasy planet and the other the MC gets pulled through dimensions to an alternate Earth. This idea is the only one I've really had that will be set in our reality, to a certain point, so I'm kind of worried about chosing a location.

    As long the description of the town's geography sounds realistic and stuff, would you care if there was an actual match for it in reality? A place where is could be laid out (without crushing another town)?
     
  19. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, not necessarily. If that's what you want, that's where you should set it. There was just a big discussion about whether you should visit a place if you're setting a story there and there were mixed opinions.

    As long as you make it realistic, it doesn't matter if there is a real match for it. This is all up to you and what fits in your story.

    Sometimes, people read a story set in a particular town and they are so intrigued by the description of the town that comes through that they want to visit it.

    I have a particular town where I've set my stories, but I never name it. People familiar with the large city close to the town where my story takes place would probably easily be able to guess it. I've mentioned certain geographical aspects of the town in the story, as well as certain public transportation options that are available there. The characters travel into the large city, where I mention real places. My anonymous town lets me describe it and have the action flow naturally because I have a firm picture in my mind of the characteristics of this town. But the anonymity allows me to add different streets, schools, restaurants, etc., without anyone having the authority to cry foul. I mix real and imaginary places in the large city, because the city is so large, no one is going to really be able to state for certain that there is no such restaurant on this street. (And for something like that, really no one is going to care.)

    The important thing for writing is that *you* have a good idea in your head as to the setting of the story so that necessary descriptive elements will seep into the writing when necessary.
     
  20. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    Thanks for the comment. Thinking now, a small island would probably be better for a lost island or for a future setting story... maybe... :p

    I've got somewhat of an idea how I imagine the town; I'll create a map, which will (hopefully) help.
     
  21. bsbvermont
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    Pink Angel...just a thought. I watched a movie over the weekend (Kate Hudson/Little bit of Heaven) and the movie was set in the city. It never mentioned what city but had "some characteristics" of the south (although no accents nor mention of the south). It didn't detract from the movie. So I think as long as you write a good description of the location, it is sometimes easier for both the author and reader to not have a specific location.
     
  22. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    BBS- I think that might work better in a book than in a movie. When I watch a movie, I am constantly trying to figure out where it is taking place and where it was filmed (because those are not always the same). It drives me crazy if I can't figure it out. If I can't tell by the skyline or other features, I strain to see license plates or newspapers or other clues. I might be the only odd one who does this, but my husband will do the same thing (although maybe I've infected him with this insanity).
     
  23. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Options:
    1. Never name the town but give the general location
    2. Name the town with something that does not exist in that area. Google carefully.
    3. Name the town something real but ambiguous - Springfield, no state given, USA
     
  24. Timberwolf
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    Timberwolf New Member

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    My preference if I'm ever in this situation is to find a town on Google Maps that's in roughly the right place, make up a name for my fictional town, figure out any local geography that's going to be necessary for the plot I have in mind (a row of foreboding houses, a small but lively church, a shut-down factory, whatever...) and then try not to think about it any more. If the characters need to mention the town name or travel somewhere, then it's all there ready to use and I don't have to pull any unnatural, jarring turns of phrase in order to avoid giving specifics. If it never becomes necessary, then it doesn't get mentioned.

    An extra thought is that a town needs to be plausible. If it's a remote community on an island then there ought to be a reason for it being there, whether it grew from a fishing village, was developed as a Victorian-era resort, or sprawled from a penal colony. This is a good chance to world-build and make your town feel "real" - even if it's just a few choice architectural details nabbed from similar styles of place on Google Streetview!
     
  25. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I do it all the time. Make up a town of my own and stick it into the real world.

    But yeah, Timberwolf has it spot on. It needs to feel like it's been there all along. What was the history of this town? Did it do any commerce with the surrounding towns that actually exist? What were the people like? It shouldn't feel like it had magically appeared out of nowhere.
     

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