1. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Too scared to place story somewhere real

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by UberNoodle, Oct 26, 2010.

    Hi,

    This is my second post here in these forums. Again, I hope that my actions have not provoked a barrage of "tutting" from you all here. And yes, I do know where the search function is. Sorry if I have misjudged you all. I've met with so many unfriendly forums in the past. Rest assured, I have searched and yet am still in need of help.

    I live Japan. I have been here for seven years and will probably be here for seven more. Everybody says, "wow, you could write so much about or set in Japan!". I tend to just play along, but what I really want to say is, "NO! NO I CAN'T!" I find myself affraid to choose real settings for my writing. I guess it's that I worry about exposing my fiction to the realism of a real setting.

    I like Science Fiction, so real settings scare me more. Gawd, I dribble in fear at trying to speculate how a city today would look in a dystopian future where sentient Energiser Bunnies, through gift of their unmatched staying power, have managed to conquer the world. I guess there'd be more pink, and lights.

    SO, to cut a long story short: what do you all do/think about choosing real settings and how do you deal (or do you even NEED to deal) with the nitty-gritty realism and detail that makes a reader say, "wow, he's really been there!"?

    I just don't know what it is, but trying to choose a real locale gives me a knot in my stomach. My characters can't wander vague, "could be anywhere" scenery forever ... can they?
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why not? You writing fiction. Your responsibility when writing fiction is to write good fiction. To do that you are allowed to use any cheap trick in existence, brake rules, lie and mangle reality. Thats your job.

    You don't have any responsibility to be realistic, of fair, or intelligent, or write a perfect description no on ever can disagree with.
    You only responsibility as a writer is to show something interesting.
     
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  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Writing is all about individualism and doing what YOU want to do.

    If you don't like real settings, don't use them. Create your own.

    Don't force yourself to conform or to do what you see commonly done if that's not what you like. It will result in crappy writing.

    Make your own settings.
     
  4. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    I think it's the genre I like that is the problem. Sci Fi is dominated by scientists who DO love their nitty gritty. And the fans come to expect that. But of course, I should write for myself and for my enjoyment and enlightenment. Of course, I do. But I'm also a fan. One of THOSE fans. And my personality is perhaps also a culprit. It wants to be get that detail. So, go get it then. That's the easy answer. The thing is, the more ropes of realism are thrown across my stories' backs, the more I suffer from creative block. Whenever I've tried to set my stories in real places, I've lost what it was that drove those stories. If I wrote fantasy or Sci Fi in alien worlds, or re-created worlds, I would be happy as Larry (I can only think of Leisure Suit Larry when I hear that expression) desiging such things. So, I hear ya, thanks for the replies. I agree with you both.

    What do YOU do, or how do you deal, with real locations, if you use them at all?
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I just write what I know in real locations -- incorporate my workplace, friends, etc (without making it autobiographical or anything; I just base stuff off it my real life).

    I prefer to write in dystopia/horror settings, but I incorporate what I am familiar with from the real world and make up the stuff that makes it dystopia/horror.

    Sorry if that doesn't make any sense. :p

    One point I'd like to make: nitty-grittiness of sci-fi doesn't have to be from the real world. You have to make lots of details, then be consistent to those details. But they can be details you make up! :)
    That's not to say you can "create" scientific "facts" from our real-world setting. But you can make up yourown place, make up rules to that place, and get detailed yet consistent. Just like Tolkien.
     
  6. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    It's hard to make up new places when its on planet Earth in the not too distant future. Thanks for your replies. I will sleep on it. It's 3:30 am and I have 3 school Halloween parties to throw tomorrow! ARRGH! And I'm Australian. I have no idea about Halloween! ;) Well, the kids are all Japanese, so they won't notice anything amiss.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Oh, cool, have fun!
    Good luck -- if you have any more questions or want more help, please feel free to PM me.
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Wait, why do you have to clarify that it's on planet Earth? You don't. ;)
     
  9. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't tend to use real places, but I do use the real world. My latest series is set, for all the world knows, in the University of Nowheretown, Somewhere, but the important thing is the final part of that address: the UK. It's a city that's sort of like Birmingham (from my extremely limited experience) with a university like Chichester (from my extensive experience) and streets like Brighton's (ditto :p) and odd landmarks in the kind of way maybe you'd only actually find around London. When I describe it, I never use names of places, but I will describe in all the detail that I know from visiting places and living places, and knowing stuff about the real world. All the technology and social life is what you'd expect, and I try to be geographically consistent even though it's a made up place, and use enough examples of stuff that people can think, "Aha! She must be writing about... [X place]"

    Basically... If you wanna use the real world, just throw in the best and worst of it, move it inland or out to sea, or whatever you need to do to distance it from the main location, and treat it both as a fantasy setting, and what you want it to be, which is realism.
     
  10. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use real locations. My home town, placer I been and so on. Its part pf the worldview and perspective that i can offer in my writing. For some it will be very recognizable and close for other the physical as well as the cultural environmental will be exotic.

    But my writing is no slave to reality.
     
  11. sereda008
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    sereda008 Senior Member

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    Probably just describe the main details but do not go about studying the streets and making sure everything is correct up to the last speck of dust. I would not care much about the accuracy of the setting than the actual story.
    And relax, it is your novel, write it the way YOU want it to be and maybe see how everyone likes it afterwards. If nobody does, maybe change a few things.
     
  12. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    I personally prefer not to know where a story exactly takes place, because that way my imagination will automatically fill in the blanks, and I imagine a place or city that I think would suit the story best, even though the writer might have had a completely different place or city in mind.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've been all over this world of ours, so with real-place settings in fiction, i'm a tough critic and will lose respect for any author who 'gets it wrong' in a country/city/town/area i'm familiar with from having been there...

    but i thoroughly enjoy revisiting any that are depicted authentically and send mental thanks and kudos to the authors who are kind and skillful enough to take me there...
     
  14. iambrad
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    iambrad Member

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    One thing you can try is to use google images to gather pictures of places and buildings you find interesting. they don't have to be from the same place or even the same continent. Once you feel like you have enough locations, take some graph paper and sort of sketch out where they should be.

    Now you should have a fairly good start on a city that you can conjure up with a good degree of detail. You can embellish the locations as you see fit, and not have to use a real city.
     
  15. Zombie_Chinchilla
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    I don't really see why not. You maybe don't even have to have them in a real city, just make the city they're living in realistic. Give it a name, maybe a broad location, like "in the east coast of California" and a description of the city. Is it big, more of a suburb, or in the middle of nowhere?
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would avoid setting a story on the "east coast of California." It's too hard to find.
     
  17. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Thanks for the responses. Now you all mention it, there are many novels and short stories I have read that do exactly that, set up a fictional location in a general area in a specific country. I'm glad I posted here. This place is a like a plunger unclogging my creative drain. One of the things that probably makes a stumbing block for me is that the country I remember most vividly is where I live, which is not where I know best. I live overseas and have been for too long, as my mother keeps telling me. If I were back home, I'd have the benefit of familiar places and knowledge. It's hard to explain. Perhaps I need to take a long trip around the country.

    Thanks all for your input.
     
  18. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Research is important too. :D I approve your road trip idea. :D
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a sense of place is not so much evoked by details of geography (which are pretty easy to get right nowadays, even if it seems that Dan Brown has never seen a map of Paris). It is evoked by how people respond to that geography. What are the hopes and fears of the people living there? How do people in the different neighbourhoods tend to respond to each other? Are there any historic alliances and conflicts (from areas that are at war or nearly so all the way down to rival sports teams). Anybody can set a book in Liverpool and get the relative positions of the Pier Head, the cathedrals and the football stadiums right and put the Epstein statue above the entrance to the John Lewis department store. Getting the feeling of the influence of the Dutch sailors, Irish and later Carribean immigrants, of the way Irish sectarian violence spilled over into Liverpool in the 60s and 70s, of the collapse of the port and manufacturing industries and the subsequent rise of the service industries and so on, and how those influences are different on different generations. That's the sort of thing that really gives you a sense of the place.

    I think a master of this is Alan Garner, who manages to get an incredible sense of a small part of Cheshire, UK, in his books.
     
  20. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Melzaar: One day I'll do Naha, Okinawa to Sapporo, Hokkaido. That would be information overload. ;)

    Digitig: You are right on that. The culture of a place is the soul of a place. A book has to capture that.
     
  21. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    I know how you feel. I have a hell of a tough time researching real places, so I usually tend to invent locations for my stories.
     
  22. Blips
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    It's entirely up to you if you want to include real world settings.

    I'm working on a science fiction-y story right now, and it takes place entirely within real world settings (or real world settings that have been changed in some way). I've got a bit of a break since my story is about 50 years in the future however.

    If you do enough research, or use a location that is fairly remote, you will be able to fool most people into believing that your story really is taking place in the specified location.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    perhaps the poster was referring to the future 'east coast of cal' after 'the big one' shears it off from the rest of the continent! ;-)
     
  24. WS Atkinson
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    WS Atkinson New Member

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    An adept writer can make an imaginary location/setting just as 'real' as a real setting. There are tons of sci-fi writers who do this. If you believe in your material and in the characters, let your inner voice guide you and don't worry about it. You will know soon enough where your characters feel comfortable.
     
  25. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's nothing wrong with using a fictional place in your fiction... it may even make the writing more universal and less prone to ageing.

    For example, you can take a real city, like Berlin, and make references to flower-adorned office buildings, street artists, a bombed-out church, people being shot when they fled across the border decades earlier, and about several town centres that have grown together into one big city. Then you can change some things, and decide that the city lies by the sea, close to the border, and is called "Niebel".

    People who know Berlin will understand what Niebel is based on, and they will realise you have tried to capture the feeling of the real city. They won't criticise your made-up city for not being an exact copy of Berlin.
     

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