1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sense of location - is it needed?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Aug 1, 2015.

    My current WiP is set in a dystopian future, and I'm purposely avoiding giving it a real-world location.

    I'm doing this for two main reasons: One, I don't have to worry about geographical inaccuracies / research. And two, I can blend language traits (Americanisms and Englishisms) in an attempt to 'evolve' the language.

    I'd like to know therefore, as a reader, would you be irritated or put off by this vagueness? Would your not knowing exactly where the story was supposed to be taking place distract you? Or would you simply go with your gut, assume it was set (wherever) and not worry that it was never confirmed?
     
  2. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    "The Simpsons" is in Springfield, but it was never known what state it was in until just recently, so I say you can get away with it just fine.
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, Lewdog.

    I should have thought more about the title of this thread, but it can't be changed now.

    Of course a 'sense' of location is needed, but I obviously mean a real-world location.
     
  4. PrincessSofia
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    PrincessSofia Active Member

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    As long as there is description, I wouldn't mind it not being a real-world location :)
     
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  5. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    You have to realize you are going to need to spend extra time building your world even if you don't use an existing place.
     
  6. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    I'd personally like to know where it takes place.
     
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  7. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I don't think it needs to be real world or even named.

    Characters and story can stand alone without knowing where they are.

    I don't remember the names of any of the towns of the last 5 SF novels I read in the last 5 weeks.

    I do remember what happened and why.
     
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  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, don't get me wrong, I have no intention of skimping on the world's description. I just don't want the constraints of having to set it in a place someone is going to know, and who will spend their time thinking "But South wouldn't take you to (wherever). (Wherever) is east of there." just because I haven't done my geographical research thoroughly.
     
  9. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the geography matters, do it. For example, in All the Light We Cannot see, the setting takes place in multiple very different places for the majority of the book. And since it is a historical fiction, and to my knowledge a realistic one at that, accurate geography is very important. Otherwise, you should not bother.
     
  10. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's fine to use a fictional setting and not mention where it is exactly. If you make this setting have really strange American/British peculiarities, though, it may be off putting if you never explain it. For example, I might make up a fictional city in the US and not say where it is supposed to be. If it seems like the city could be a probable city in the US, that would be fine. If I make the city extremely unique in a way that makes it improbable for the US, I would want an explanation.

    Basically, even if you never mention where the city is to readers, you as a writer still need to make sure the city is logical for where it is in your story.
     
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  11. BookLover
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    I actually read a novel a few years back that was so specific about real locations and real roads and real buildings and what not, that it drove me nuts. I thought, "What is this? A love letter to California? It's the story I'm interested in not what interstate the character takes to get from point A to B!" It was way too specific, and I hated it. And, of course, somewhere at the beginning or end of the book the author thanked his assistant for doing all the research for him and getting maps to little known towns and so forth. Maybe the people who actually live in those towns might appreciate being mentioned, but as someone who lives no where near any of that, I found it really off-putting to slog through it all.

    So, in my opinion, don't even worry about it. I don't care if it's a real location or not. I care about the story.
     
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  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is actually something I like about a well-imagined, geographically vague setting. It helps me immerse myself in the fictional reality. And it is never "distracting" not knowing where a setting is in relation to the rest of the world. In fact, that actually eliminates a distraction.
     
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  13. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    The crossover I talked of would effect the language more than locations, but I see your point.

    Just to further back up my motivations here, it might help if I explain I'm from England and know nothing about America's geography other than what I see on tv and the movies. However, my novel will be part road movie, and I want the scope America offers, without having to declare this as the setting.

    So, to sum up, my novel is set in a place as big as America, but not necessarily America.

    Hope that makes sense.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. I thought you'd be fine until you got to the road movie part. It's hard to travel without mentioning places. I find myself imagining,

    Jane yawned. "How long until we get to the little town near the mountains?"
    Joe said, "About four hours after the large town near the very large body of water."
    Jane nodded. "There's a great burger joint in a medium-sized town by a lake. Let's stop there."


    I'm guessing that you have some solution for that, but I wanted to mention it.
     
  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Lots of travel in mad max with very few towns though innit?
     
  16. Bryan Romer
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    Some vague geographic details should be enough to make the reader feel like they are not floating in some unspecified limbo. "The mountain range to the north-west" , "leading to the ocean far off in that direction", "winter comes earlier in this area", that sort of thing.
     
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  17. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good point, but yes, I do have a solution in mind, and Bryan has pretty much answered for me (see following)
     
  18. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    North of the wall.
    Winter is coming.

    Yeah that works ;)
     
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  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There are plenty of stories in the future or far future where the precise location isn't precisely determined, even though they're set somewhere on Earth. I don't think knowing the precise location is necessary at all. Just develop the setting sufficiently to give the reader what she needs to immerse herself into the story and I think you've accomplished the biggest part of creating the setting. Understanding that it is a future North America, for example, but not any specific place identifiable to the reader, is just fine.
     
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