1. ilovetoread
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    ilovetoread New Member

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    Writing A Novel: Locations

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by ilovetoread, Aug 27, 2010.

    I'm starting a new novel that i have an idea for but i'm struggling with where i am going to set it. If i pick somewhere real in America for example, then i have to research shop names, hospital names etc which is ok but was wondering how many of you out there do that.

    Is the location really something that i need to research and really go into depth with because some novels i read don't go into real detail.


    Hope to get some help :)
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you ever read the Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearne? She has set it in a imaginary country but it is obvious it is meant to be Japan.

    I moved my adult thriller to its own country and world and turned it into a young adult fantasy lol Solved the problem of me getting round the issues you raise.
     
  3. ilovetoread
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    ilovetoread New Member

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    Sounds like a good idea, so do you think i should just make the name up of towns and places and go from there?
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends if your story will take it, both my book and Tales of the Otori are young adult fantasy. If you story will need a real city then just enough research to be able to describe it a little and give people an idea of where they are.
     
  5. Diablo Robotico
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    Diablo Robotico Member

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    I suppose if I was writing something that I wanted to be grounded in reality somehow, I would research the city I wanted to be the setting. So far, though, I've avoided such technicalities.

    Although, you could fictionalize things. The characters you're writing about probably don't exist, so you could give them places to go that don't exist either (but people from that city might realize it's not accurate). One other alternative is use places you have lived before. Stephen King sets a lot of his novels in Maine because that's a place he knows.
     
  6. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you have to research the actual shop names and names of local institutions. If you think about it, if your novel was to be a success, it would become quickly outdated if the said places were closed or renamed. It just seems wrong to me. None of the great novels I can think of included sentences like "Between Pets 'R' Us and Pizza Hut on Main Street, David encountered..." I know that's a bit trite but you get my point. I don't think it would be relevant to the story to go into that level of detail.

    I'm not sure what the rest of you think but I would avoid giving specifics, especially business names. You want the content to be timeless. I would concede that hospital names can be given as they rarely change.

    On another note, I wonder what the legal position would be if the shop you name dropped objected to its use in your novel?

    If you still wish to be specific about locations you can give the name of the street and perhaps the nature of the business. You can place a coffee shop at a particular location for instance.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This solution is risky, in a way, because if everyone did it, we'd have nothing but novels set in fantasy worlds. And the reason for that wouldn't be because the stories are supposed to be fantasies, but simply that the authors aren't willing to do research.

    As writers, we can't be lazy. If we want our story to be set in New York and we don't already know a lot about New York, we should do research about New York. If we don't, and we put the Statue of Liberty in Central Park, we lose the reader's trust. They just won't believe us, and won't believe our stories.

    And we shouldn't avoid the necessity of research by setting our stories in "New Yark" or "New Yorrc" or wherever, in which the Statue of Liberty IS in Central Park. That's not just lazy, it's pathetic.

    If you want to write a fantasy, write a fantasy and create your world. If you want to set your story in THIS world, you have to do your research.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine was mostly because I wanted to centre it round a Royal Family its harder to make it up and place it on Earth, although has been done well at times.

    Lian Hearne's isn't due to lack of research, she lived in Japan and had a love of the culture. However what she did was to give the feel to the novel through culture. I like the way she did it and it is a method that can easily cross genres, and personally I would like to see more of. There was no doubt in my mind where she meant despite the country being her own imagination and tailored to her story.
     
  9. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    If you want it to take place in a realistic American setting, but you don't want to research every street name and corner store, you could put a made up city in a real state. Think of Smallville of the Superman world. It's in Kansas, so it needs to be Kansas like, but the details can be entirely made up.

    I'm doing this for the story I'm working on now. It would help to pick a state you've lived in, and maybe base the setting somewhat on a city you know from that state, but as long as you use a made up name, you can make up pretty much everything else.
     
  10. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    +1

    So long as your made-up location is believable as a possible town/city in the country you're writing about, it doesn't need to be somewhere real.
     
  11. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    You can set it anywhere you like, although you might find that people will be less willing to read it if they find out it has been set in a fantasy world and doesn't have swords and sorcery :p

    The solution is simple, as usual (see many similar threads on this board): if you want your book published, do your research and do it well! All this time spent thinking about how you can get around doing the research could be put to much better use!!
     
  12. jameskmonger
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    jameskmonger Member

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    Look at lots of famous books. How many of them feature real shop names, or even street names? Use your imagination!
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with James imagination is important, I tend not to like overly researched work. For me the best comparison here is Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs, similar basic subject matter but one of the two is far more bogged down in the science than the other.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    We're talking about places, that's all. You can set something anywhere you want, and fictionalize part of the setting. So, for example, you can create an imaginary section of Chicago, but captures the flavor of the South Side. There are countless examples of this in published works.
     
  15. SerraSwift
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    SerraSwift Member

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    It depends on how important your setting is to the story.

    The book I just finished writing needed to be set in San Francisco, because I wanted to utilize very specific parts of the city. I had to do research, and even visited and took notes and photos to help me out.

    How big of a role does setting play in the plot of your story?
     
  16. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I made up a fictional Irish town, Ballynewry (taken from "Bally" which is a prominent prefix in Irish place names and "Newry", after the "Newry ice cream van", which is a nickname for the Land Rover Tangi heavily-armored police vehicle).
     
  17. Bad_Valentine
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    Bad_Valentine Member

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    If you're going to write about places you've never been, just use Google earth to find real places, etc. You can also just make up names. That's part of the freedom of fiction. ;) I would think if you're going to write about a place you have never been, the hard part will be making the dialogue and setting seem real because you don't know what the people and environment is really like. Its like describing times square when you've never stood in the middle of it.
     
  18. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A friend is a published writer, wroth an YA book.

    She wrote the environments based on her own childhood city but never mentioned the cities name, and kept the terms general ("we walked up the hill to the supermarket") etc. But wrote in an very honest and truthful way in the emotional way she describe things. The school cafeteria, the rack of porn magazines in the store, the stores in the town the kids view as extra cool etc.

    The interesting thing is that it had the effect that loads of adults reading the book all where sure that she wrote about their home town, although they were wrong in almost all cases.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why don't you just set it in a place you know?
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is like Lian Hearne's books she makes it clear at the beginning its an imaginary country but you are in medieval Japan after a few pages lol
     
  21. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    My novel has made up suburbs in Sydney. I don't actually say Sydney anywhere, I refer to it as 'the city' and build from there. From my imaginary suburb, there is a rail system, schools etc. It could just as well be Melbourne.

    It wasn't that I didn't want to do any research. It was because of the subject material and since I am writing for myself first and foremost, I wanted to distance myself somewhat from reality.

    At least once this is all on paper, I plan on it staying in the forgotten western suburb.
     
  22. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I personally think if you are going to set it someplace real then do some research. I love reading stories where it really gives you the flavor of the region or town. Not everything has to be real. The real city can be a backdrop and the main locations that you are using can be fictional. If you want to make up a town that is set in the real world then research the region. I talked about my feelings on settings in greater depth here if anyone is interested.
     
  23. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As I said earlier, you should do research on the city you're setting your story in. You should try to capture the flavor of the place and at the very least get the famous details right. But you don't have to be accurate down to the last inch. You can set your story in New York, but have it take place on "Beagle Street", even if there's no Beagle Street in New York (I don't know much about New York).

    In James Michener's Space, one of the main characters is a senator from the western state of Fremont. There is no state of Fremont in the USA; Michener made it up. But he got the flavor of the place right.
     
  24. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    And the map drawn in the front of the book made it look like Fremont had been pasted over a corner of Kansas. :)
     
  25. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is what I usually do.

    If I'm writing something where setting is key and I'm not terribly familiar with the place, I definitely do research on the location. Like others have said, the amount of research needed all depends on how heavily the telling of the story relies on location.
     

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