1. adamcroft
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    adamcroft New Member

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    Setting your novel in a real location... Potential pitfalls

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by adamcroft, Mar 9, 2011.

    Hi everyone,

    This is something which I've been thinking about for a long time. I have written one crime fiction novel, which I decided to set in a fictional town. I've been toying with the idea of setting it in a real town, or at least basing the novel on my home town (even if I re-name it and the landmarks).

    As I see it, setting it locally and keeping everything named the same will give you an enormous amount of leverage for marketing the book locally (as people always love to read about their home town) but could be dangerous - especially when you're looking at a crime fiction novel (who wants someone murdered in their pub, even if in a fiction book? What if someone spots that a character is based on them?). Of course, knowing in my mind where it's set and simply changing names is a half-way house, but still doesn't quite satisfy me.

    What do you think?
     
  2. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    By using a 'real location ' as a map/template one can concentrate on creating evocative characters ..ya dig ?
     
  3. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    Compromise. My current WIP is a crime novel also, set in a small city not far from me. I've used real streets, real history, and some real local landmarks and businesses. For all of the action, however, I've created fictional businesses. I find that using the real city helps me visualize, while fictionalizing the individual locations keeps me from worrying about stepping on any toes.
     
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  4. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    real places come with pre existing milieu (topography, weather,accents, economic base etc.) a writer can exploit ..ya dig ?
    of course you change the names of people and place but the 'things' inherent to the place remain as part of the tapestry
     
  5. hawky94
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    hawky94 Active Member

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    I find that for my current WIP (a military fiction novel), the use of real locations is needed. i.e: Basra, Afghanistan. London, England... I guess it depends on the genre that you're writing and how much realism you want in your story, I know when I write mine, I always pay attention to realism, weapon names, cartridge names, proper weapon operation... the list goes on. It all depends on the genre that you're writing for me.
     
  6. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    I think you are over estimating the enormous leverage you would have on your home town. Given the grand scheme of things, the shear size of America, and even if you heavily marketed your home town, I doubt that sales from that area would comprise of more than 1% when compared to sales in the rest of America (or your country). So, I would not consider basing your story on your hometown an advantage financial wise.

    There are some people (a niche market) that enjoy reading books based in certain well-known towns such as Las Vegas or New York because those towns have a certain atmosphere/magic. However, if your town is not one of those towns I doubt that you would attract that niche market. So, again a financial motive goes out the window.

    As far as the town being ticked off that you created a murder in their town, I think that chance is slim. When you think of of the stuff Stephen King created in the state of Maine you would think the state would have banned him by know, yet he still lives in Maine.
     
  7. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    The only pit fall I see would be not being in that town, not knowing things that the locals know, some history in the town, what street connects to which street.
    But if you research enough, I think you over come not being from the city or town you write about. Possibly even talk about some comon traffic spot and how it influences the MC.

    I would try to keep well known businesses where they are, maybe even place fictional businesses in vacant lots or vacant buildings.

    For crime drama, most towns have major crime(in the US anyway) so a fictional murder wouldn't be to outrageous.
    I think as long as your not labeling a business as bug infested, nasty food, disgusting owners, or other business influencing stereotypes, I think businesses won't mind.
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thing you can do is ask.

    "Hi (Pubowner). I'm a writer, and I written a crime novel. In my novel a murder takes place in the pub. I can send you excerpt if you like. If you don't feel comfortable with this I'm willing to change the name of the location, but I like you pub and I think it adds a genuine touch to the novel. And that it might provide some good PR to the pub."
     
  9. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where did he say he's American?
     
  10. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    In the 3rd line I said.."I doubt that sales from that area would comprise of more than 1% when compared to sales in the rest of America (or your country)."
     
  11. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    "Can you make it Lefty who gets murdered? Man... that guy pisses me off sometimes!"
     
  12. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Agreed. Lefty is an a-hole. He probably won't get murdered though. It never works out like that.
     
  13. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    Ah... so the whole novel centers around a case of mistaken identity of the victim... and when Lefty innocently starts to walk into the bar, Shorty grabs him by the coat-tail... "Holy Jesus, Lefty! It's you! Look, pal-- ixnay the walking through the door, we gotta get you outta sight!"

    Turns out that Lefty was the-- wait, here I am, giving away the plot!
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    successful authors set their novels in real places all the time, often where they live... so it's not a problem, as long as you make the necessary adjustments to avoid having any of your characters resemble real folks...

    and even within a real town/city, you can still create fictional streets and businesses, y'know...
     
  15. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    I agree with what Terry D and mammamaia wrote. Setting it in a real town, in particular one you know well, gives you the chance to add a level of realistic detail and atmosphere that would be more difficult if you tried to place everything in a nondescript "standard" town.

    Of course, businesses and people who become deeply involved in the action could (and often should) be fictionalized. When you are writing about something that happened 200 years ago, on the other hand, you can probably also use historical businessess.
     

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