1. jnk1296
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    jnk1296 Member

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    Using a real high school vs. making one up

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by jnk1296, Oct 8, 2015.

    So after sitting on a old, badly written draft for about four and a half years, I've decided to pick my novel back up and restart work on it. So, for me, that means heavy plot and setting editing and basically starting from scratch.

    I've elected to set the plot of my book in Sioux Falls, SD. Thus far I've already determined the locations and addresses (fake ones) of both of my main characters and I've done a fair amount of research on the area as a whole. Now the main characters are high school students, and thus that leads me to a bit of confusion.

    The local high school in the area is Roosevelt High School. Now, I can't find anything denoting the layout of the building (which I would assume is for a very good reason), nor can I find any helpful pictures of the interior. So I'm trying to decide whether I should just make up the interior of the school (basing it off of my own high school) or if I should just forego Roosevelt altogether and just make the high school up in its entirety? I'm trying to keep to a realistic description of the city and I'm wondering which of the two would be better to do, both for realism and ethic's sake.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm using a real one. The outside and surrounding areas are readily available on Google Earth. I'm making up the interior in whatever way suits me.
     
  3. jnk1296
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    jnk1296 Member

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    Kind of the idea I was thinking of going with. I tend to get snagged on these sort of nit-picky details. :)
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I figure the number of potential readers who are going to know the inside of the high school in the book doesn't match up with the real one is going to be quite small :)
     
  5. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    Okay so I did the exact same type of thing in a story I wrote a few years ago, and I chose to use my actual highschool. It went good for a couple of chapters, but it started to feel very childish and not very original, making me sick of it. I trashed the story completely. So my advice would be to make something up, it's more fun.
     
  6. jnk1296
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    jnk1296 Member

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    Well I only require the school for the first third of the plot, anyhow. And only for a few select scenes, so it's not a huge deal to me. It isn't really a pivotal location.
     
  7. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I created a school which doesn't exist - it gives me plenty of freedom to describe it as I see fit, rather than conform to the layout of a real building which I may or may not get correct.
     
  8. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    You could use the name but use your (or another) familiar highschool layout in the story. If I was doing that and couldn't find a layout of it on Google, I would just mentally retrace my highschool or a local one I could go look at. I don't think that this would flaw your writing to the reader, if it wasn't exactly like the mentioned highschool, because the majority of people who read this, won't be alumni from that school in particular. Most schools are sort of generic anyway in layout. I can understand wanting authenticity though.
     
  9. Australis
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    Australis Active Member

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    If few people know the layout is wrong, just as few will know if you use a fictional name, if it's realistic. Then you're free to imagine the insides as you fit.
     
  10. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    How important to the story are the details of the school's layout? Because it might behoove you, when using a real place, to keep things vague.
    "He ran from the principal's office to the library."
    Vs
    "He ran from the principal's office, turned left, headed out the double doors next to the Bio lab, crossed the courtyard, and burst into the library."
    This is obviously an extreme example, but you get the point. Sure, some readers will get in a huff over anything, but if details about a real place are kept on the fuzzy side, you can't really be called out on being wrong.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    But how many of your target readers have ever been to that high school? Enough to care about? Doesn't seem likely, particularly in my case which is a small high school in a small town.
     
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  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I must agree. Taking just America as an example, from the U.S. Department of Education:

    That's a total of 37,100. These numbers are from 1990-2000, just to be clear. Chances seems pretty darned slim that anyone will know enough of the details of High School X to care.

    ETA: Also, even if a reader did know the school, are you really going to worry about that one reader reading the book and thinking, "What? That's not where Building J is! Fuck this book!"
     
  13. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    Well

    I haven't written anything yet but I've though on this subject somewhat before, I actually went opposite and made up the school but used location and the interior I remember from when I was still in school going off memory.

    So kinda used a combination of real and fake
     
  14. AniGa
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    AniGa Member

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    Hm... I do sometimes use real locations, but then I pay heavy attention to detail and get as much visual and cultural information about the places as possible.
    But I prefer using fictional places; not necessarily fictional worlds, but - for example, for all my non-SciFi and non-Fantasy, I mainly, but not exclusively work with a fictional Asian country of my own, but that country is still very much set in an only slightly modified version of the real world, our world.

    Long story short: If you work with real places, make sure you get them right, the way they are. Or the way they were or probably will be, depending on when your story takes place.
    And if you work with fictional places, then make sure you fill them with as much detail in terms of culture, people visuals et cetera as any other non-fictional place.

    As long as that is given, I don't think fictional or non-fictional is better / worse or more / less appropriate than the other.

    And just about the interior of non-fictional places - I mean, come on.
    I'm assuming you're not writing a comic or manga - and, assuming that, what does it matter if you don't get it right perfectly? There's no need to describe it in really great detail, and there's no visuals that could be off.
    So just do what makes sense and leave it at that if you can't find images of the place.


    Greets,
    AniGa
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
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