1. Makaze3
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    Makaze3 New Member

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    Using real places (schools, bars, hospitals, etc) or making them up?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Makaze3, Mar 4, 2016.

    My story is set in and around Flint, MI, which I know very well first hand. One of my characters is a college professor, and I always imagined him teaching at U of M Flint, but should I use a fictitious university instead? I know a LOT of people who attended this university, so I am sure I could get a lot of details from their personal experience about the school, but from a student's perspective. Not a professor's. Would it be better to make up a university so I can create all the details about it from scratch? Same question for the bar that another character works at, a hospital they go to, and other random things like that. I would just hate to use a real place and get something wrong about it. Thanks in advance for any input. :)
     
  2. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I like using real tidbits in my WIP and not telling the reader what is real or not. I like the ambiguity (but then I write dark fantasy). But then maybe that is just my style. Maybe I will include an afterword which tells what is real or not, and give the reader specific nightmares when he thought he had fought himself through :D

    Things I use occassionally are specific plants (which are not referred to by 'our' name), societal functions, beverages, medicines, some places (if they are significant in my WIP), ..
     
  3. Ochalis
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    Ochalis Member

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    If your story incorporates a major fantastical element, I'd go with fictional places. I'd argue that fictional places give the author much more flexibility and imagination as opposed to real places. Now, this isn't to say that real places cannot allow for such- but fictional places aren't bound to reality. There are so many specifics subject to scrutiny you would have to account for should your story take place in a actual setting. However, given your history with the area, this shouldn't be too huge of a problem. But generally speaking, if you don't want to worry about real-life implications, and your story involves a lot of fantasy, I'd go for a fictional setting.
     
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  4. croak3r
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    croak3r Member

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    Why not just use the university name and then make up what it's like to suit your story? It's not like the reader will know if it's accurate or not, neither would they really care.
     
  5. L. J.
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    L. J. New Member

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    I personally love the inclusion of real places if it fits the story.

    If you want to include details from a professor's perspective at U of M Flint, you could probably contact a professor (or two, or three) in the fields of your character and ask to interview them. If you have an in with students, they might know which profs would be more interested in such a thing.
     
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  6. Makaze3
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    Makaze3 New Member

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    Thank you all for your responses! My story does not have a fantasy element to it, but I like the idea still of using made up places. I think I will use the university name but make up the details. I will probably use a real hospital name too, but probably make up the name of the bar and other smaller places. Thanks again for all of your input!
     
  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    No matter whether it's real or fictitious, what you'd be missing is the experience of being a professor/teacher. In your shoes, I'd make contact with as many professors as possible and find a few who'd be willing to share their experiences with you, maybe give you a tour of the 'behind the scenes' at a university, the stuff students don't see (or many don't notice).
     
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  8. Martin515
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    Martin515 Member

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    Universities tend to be pretty major features of a town of city. I can't speak for the US, but in the UK many towns are defined as "University Towns" and are very often the biggest employer of the region. (And I'm not just talking Ox/bridge.)

    With that in mind, if you are set on using Flint, then I would definitely use the University's real name, and even some key aspects of it and some real on-campus locations, but create a fictional school/faculty/department within the real Uni, or even create a separate fictional campus if your story needs it. That way you can provide tidbits that are real, (which -- if accurate -- alumni will enjoy reading,) but you have the freedom of fiction where you need it.
     
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  9. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    You can use real places and still pull of a fantastical story or setting.

    The university I attended, Auburn University, is addressed by name in the novel [and movie version] of Big Fish.

    Many elements in that story are definitely fiction and not realistic, as were some places around. But they still named the university.

    Same with other novels. Gaiman name drops some UK universities in his work as well, despite many of his stories not being realism.

    As far as the hospital names go, I don't think it's needed to have a real hospital name, unless it is a famous research hospital that is relavent to the storyline [Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic etc].
     
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  10. furzepig
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    furzepig Member

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    I like Martin515's idea above, but if that doesn't work, I'd suggest using a made-up name but including details from the real place. Using the real name and making up the details sort of cuts you off from a potential audience of knowledgeable people, who may lose their suspension of disbelief upon realizing that you've gotten your information "wrong."
     
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  11. CMacgregor93
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    CMacgregor93 Member

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    I think you should use the University and then make up other places like the bar and perhaps hospital too.
     
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  12. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    I'm with L.J. above. Research is essential for any of your writing. Just make out 20-30 interview questions and ask if you can interview some of the professors. Believe me, they love that stuff. It will help your story fell more realistic. You can make-up a fake University, but readers from Flint will know it doesn't sound right.
    Even though you are writing fiction, you want to try and make it the most believable you can.
    I just look at the forum here. If it doesn't sound right, someone will call you on it. It is the one thing I love about being part of this group. And it will make you a better researcher in the future.
     
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  13. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Sorry, It will make your story feel more realistic. Monday morning hands are kicking my butt today.
     
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  14. Wolf Daemon
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    Wolf Daemon Active Member

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    You could easily make it all up but I feel like I would be one of the people who (if righting a more realistic book) would rather base it on an actual place. This being said you would have to do a LOT of research on the matter. If you live there then it is just a matter of conversing with the people. If you have a friend or friends going there then go with them to talk with one of their professors to see what their perspective of working their is like, if you need a bar go around the area and find out what (in general) it is like to work as a bartender. Even when doing this I would make all the characters from scratch but make them realistic to the place, you wouldn't create a "city girl character" who has lived in the country all her life would you?
     
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  15. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    But not too many details. Otherwise, it will look like a "roman a clef" and readers familiar with the actual place will be wondering whose identities are being disguised. Of course, if that's your intent, go for it.
     

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