Tags:
  1. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire

    Does a setting need specifying?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Ted Catchpole, Jun 26, 2020.

    I am on my first novel, my natural drive is to imagine the town I was raised in, Cirencester. However, that feels a bit, corny and trite.
    DO I need to name the town? I am happy to pick one and study roads and sighst to make a convincing narrative but how important do you think that is?
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    1,750
    Likes Received:
    2,762
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    I'd think for a novel you should specify the name of it. In a short enough story you might get away with just saying "In the town where I was born" (Or in a song maybe ;)) but a novel is a much bigger thing, that readers spend a lot more time in, and they want some grounding in geography and they want to know the names of important things, people and places.
     
    Oscar Leigh and The_Joker like this.
  3. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    2,256
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    A real setting makes a novel more engaging, IMO. You don't HAVE to name the town but, for example A Place of Execution was set in Derbyshire (I've not read it, but I've been reading about it). You can always add fictional locations within said town, like a stately home or whatever as you need.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  4. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2018
    Messages:
    1,154
    Likes Received:
    2,040
    Location:
    Texas
    You have tons of options here: Name the town, make up a name (a la Stephen King) or leave out the name entirely. There are good reasons for each.

    Specifically naming the town grounds the story in reality. Either readers are familiar with it and have a feel for it, or they get to learn about that corner of the world, at least your impression of it.

    If you make up a name, you can create your own setting, whether it's based on a real town or not. You have as much control over the feel of the place as you would in a fantasy novel. If you don't plan to show the place in an entirely positive light, you also have the advantage of being able to say that you made the whole thing up.

    There are also several ways and reasons to leave it out entirely. You might want to let the reader fill in their own biases and opinions based on places with which they're familiar. In these cases, you might give plenty of clues or even name the region, but you don't have to. There are also books set in generic industrial or rural areas that never name the city/town for the same reason other books never name the main character, to add a poignant element of mystery. Be careful with this one though. While I like it as an option, some readers find it frustrating. Think of The Road. To my recollection, we never find out where any of the story is taking place. Granted, most of the book is post-apocalyptic, but even the flashbacks take place in a generic setting. Incidentally, neither of the characters have names. That sounds like it would all be a problem, but it's considered one of the great modern novels.
     
    Oscar Leigh, The_Joker and Wreybies like this.
  5. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2019
    Messages:
    266
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Posting here instead of actually writing
    If you do pick a real town, just make sure if you start being specific(like with street names) that it actually is possible. I remember reading a book based in my home town and they were describing driving down town and turning from X street onto Y street. One problem- X and Y are parallel and do not cross.
     
  6. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2020
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    126
    Location:
    No
    To be honest, I kinda like Cirencester. It sounds nice, and I haven't heard it before.
     
  7. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire
    It is a roman town in the Cotswolds in England. In those times it was the second biggest city in the country, it was then called Corinium.

    It is quite a wealthy area (not that I was from that side!) a lot of celebrities settle around there, as it is quaint, comfortable and easy access to London
    They call the surrounding country "the millionaire belt"
     
  8. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire
    I get that but what sort of twerp would judge you for a minor traffic infraction!

    Having been on social media I know the exact answer to that question, hence the exclamation mark instead!
     
  9. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire
    I remember Stephen Fry's novel (I forget the name) was set in and around my home town area and I found it quite a thrill to read
     
  10. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire
    Thank you ALL for your replies. Very helpful and I will heed
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    16,532
    Likes Received:
    18,263
    Location:
    Scotland
    My opinion is that it's important to orient the reader, at the start. And if you're using a real town, I do think you need to be accurate about details, like streets, etc. If you make up the town, even if you're setting it in a 'real' county, etc, that gives you more freedom.

    I know when I read a piece of fiction set in a particular time or place, I want to believe the writer has done research and that the reference to the real stuff is accurate. If I find out it's not, it does make me less likely to trust the author. There is (usually) no point in setting a story in a particular place, then having characters cross a bridge that doesn't exist, for example.

    Of course you don't have to name a town in every story. But if, at some point, the reader is going to wonder 'where is this taking place?' it's probably a good idea to make it clear at the start. If you don't, the reader is likely to start skimming, looking for that answer. And they'll miss a lot of your story that way.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  12. Larro

    Larro Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2020
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    109
    Location:
    Bed
    I am experiencing the same quandary - also my first novel and set where I'm from. It's not that I think it would be corny, rather I feel like I would be stepping on the toes of the locals if that makes sense. Where I'm from is so small and one of the settings is an island off the coast where there's only around 100 people living, and here I am throwing a rather unpleasant character into their midst! It just feels wrong to name it, so all the way through I've called it 'the Island', and our capital city I've called 'the Capital', but I really think I should bite the bullet and either name them or make up new names. When reading, I do like to know where things are set, so I suppose that's my answer. Cirencester looks beautiful!
     
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    2,256
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    You can always compromise - a fictional place near a real place. So, for example, you could set it in a fictional village near Cirencester.
     
    Oscar Leigh and jannert like this.
  14. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2019
    Messages:
    266
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Posting here instead of actually writing
    It was just jarring because they had everything else correct. You could follow along as they went down the street mentioning landmarks and then they turned and it's a 'wait, what just happened?"
     
    jannert likes this.
  15. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    3,623
    Likes Received:
    3,813
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    LOL! Here's a funny, though: In my hometown, Main Street and another thoroughfare, named after an early pioneer, run parallel north and south. But people refer to "Pioneer Name Road and Main Street" all the time. Everyone knows they mean the intersection of Pioneer Name Road and another, east-west, boulevard in one particular neighborhood. It's just the way things are.

    @Ted Catchpole, I've found it to be easier if you give your location a name in a novel. You can refer to "the city" or "the town" only so many times before it starts attracting undue attention to itself.

    Now, I did that myself in a novella I wrote several years ago. I based the setting on my hometown, but didn't come right out and name it, because I didn't want potential readers thinking the book was a roman à clef (it kind of was, but we won't talk about that). When indie publishing became a thing and I expanded it into a novel, I couldn't be so vague. I thought about the ethnic and regional history of my imaginary US Midwestern city and came up with a name that would have been given to a place like that. It gets a little awkward in that I don't mention the state, either, and in the sequel I've had to give my fake state a fake state capital. I'm hoping my readers will willingly suspend their disbelief.

    As for yours, I think it would be cool to read a story set in Cirencester. Do it well enough, and people will visit just to see the settings of your books. I mean, I went to Shrewsbury purely for the sake of the Brother Cadfael novels.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  16. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire
    Hey now that's a good idea!
     
    jannert and Naomasa298 like this.
  17. Antaus

    Antaus Active Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2016
    Messages:
    148
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    North Carolina
    It doesn't have to be a real place, you can totally make up a fake little town in England. As you're from across the pond and I don't know what kind of presence American writers have over there, I'd like to point you in the direction of horror author Stephen King. Successful enough in America to be a household name in horror and has had more than one book adapted into a film. Most of his books take place in Castlerock Maine, but good luck finding it on a map, cause it don't exist!
     
    jannert likes this.
  18. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire
    Like Shermur, Illinois from the John Hughes movies?

    King is huge here, considered one of the best ever, possibly the best in his genre, his volume is questioned in a quality vs quantity case sometimes but he is still very highly regarded. Although not all knew EVERYTHING about him as once worked in my favour: Let me tell you a funny story:
    I was about 11/12 and my parents were concerned about me reading and watching too much horror. By that stage had read Rage (the banned one), Carrie, the Dead Zone (my fave film at the time), and The Shining. All I wanted to read and watch was horror. I was not allowed to read King anymore. So, after a day trip to London, they came back to tell me they had got me a brilliant little book to read, my Dad said it looked like a great story but still wasn't childish or loaded with morals and parables (my usual complaint at fiction for my age) and that I would love it. Guess the book? The Running Man by 'Richard Bachman!' I was chuffed!
     
    marshipan, Xoic and Larro like this.
  19. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    1,621
    Location:
    Texas
    One of my favored authors wrote about not only the city I was living in, but the same freaking area and everything. I mean Houston is huge and she's describing the street one over. Further freaky was she understood the area had a lot of warehouses and the main character lived in one. This was freaky because I lived in a warehouse there at the time!!! AGH! It was very thrilling to imagine being stalked by a very successful author. It makes me feel more interesting even though it's all in my head. Anyway, she (well her and her husband--writing duo) did a very thorough amount of research.

    I like taking the easier way out. I either write what I know (where I've lived) or I make it up.
     
    Ted Catchpole, Xoic and Larro like this.
  20. Xoic

    Xoic Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    1,750
    Likes Received:
    2,762
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    What was that Will Ferrell movie where he discovered his life was being controlled by an author, and every line she wrote became his reality? Stranger Than Fiction I think.
     
    marshipan likes this.
  21. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    1,621
    Location:
    Texas
    Then I shall expect my superpowers any day now! It was the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews (aka lots of magic).
     
    Xoic likes this.
  22. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2020
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Gloucestershire
    Thats cool! I have been to Houston. It wasa long time ago. Fun City, Photon and a Rodeo. God I loved that town!
     
    marshipan likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice