1. BeckyJ

    BeckyJ New Member

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    First time writer and need help with settings

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by BeckyJ, Dec 20, 2017.

    Hi,
    I am just starting out on my writing journey and I have already become stuck..........not good!
    I am writing a fictional romance story but want it set in the area I live which of course is a real city, do I use the names of shops/towns/schools etc that actually exist or make them up?
    Thank you for any advice.
     
  2. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I've never had an issue with fictional places in real cities. Just my opinion as a consumer of fiction.
     
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  3. RiverSong

    RiverSong Member

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    Sounds like you may be overthinking it. Which is something I am told a lot when coming up with character names, city names, names of events, etc. One time I was given a tip to take something and just switch it slightly. For example, if you want to write about places in your city, slightly change the name of the city. If you use a local cafe, change up the name of the cafe a bit. For instance, a locally owned small cafe in my town is called "The Rising Son Cafe". One could use that place and it's atmosphere and just call it "The Sunrise Cafe".

    We are inspired by our surroundings so it can be extremely easy to just navigate to what we know and then create a fictional story inside of that. But if you change up the name slightly of something, that may make you feel more comfortable that you aren't stealing any factual things.
     
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  4. NateSean

    NateSean Senior Member

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    I set a story in Revere, Massachusetts once. But I needed a building from South Burlington, Vermont for one scene so I transplanted them.

    You can also use the names of shops and stores to give shootouts to your friends, family, favorite shows, etc.

    I had a shopping mall littered with Firefly references. (I even had sign advertising fruity oaty bars)

    Just do what feels right. It's one of those things you'll look back on and wonder why you were so worried.
     
  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    People do differ on this issue. It's easier to fictionalise locations slightly if you're using a large 'real' city as a backdrop. If you create a restaurant that's not actually there, or create a fictitious street that intersects with a real one, or make up a building or a street address that's not quite right, that usually doesn't upset people. Just be vague as to the actual location of these fictional things, and you should be fine. After you're published, you can insert a note at the start or end of the book, explaining that some locations are fictional. That way folks won't spend a lot of time trying to find them, or saying ''...but-but that doesn't exist...!"

    However, if you pick a real small town or smallish city and start doing this kind of creation, I think you can run into bother. People who live there or who have spent time there will KNOW you got it wrong, and this may well interfere with their enjoyment of your story. I know if you set a story in my home town (population when I was living there around 16,000) I would certainly notice if you made up streets, shops, important townspeople, physical landmarks and the town's history. And of course, people who live in small towns are very likely to want to buy any story supposedly set there. You can really annoy folks if you get those kinds of details wrong.

    If you need a small town for a piece of fiction, I'd fictionalise the entire town if I were you. You can set it in a 'real' part of the state or the country, but it gives you a lot more leeway with your creation. All you need to do is pay attention to the feel of similar small towns in the area, and you should be fine. You can make up streets, landmarks, rivers that run through the town, as well as the backstory that might go with the location.
     
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  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I like to put as much reality in my fiction as possible. I don't mean writing about myself or people I know so much as having all my characters wear Nike sneakers and eat at Olive Garden and pay by VISA. I'm all for a real location if you've got those details and know what it's like there. But if your book inspires me to take a trip to this town and there in no Olive Garden on Center Street... wait, there is no Center Street... Why did I come to this town? Oh, yeah. I read your book and it sounded like such a great place to visit, but it's nothing like the actual town, really. I think it depends on how accurate you are going to be with your setting if it's a real place. My novel takes place in a real city. I name it, its streets, its establishments. If it's there for real and I want it, it's going in. But some of my novel also takes place in one of the small towns outside the city. There are several small towns outside this city that I could have chosen, but instead I left that vague and open. It's surely one of those towns and if anyone from that area reads this, they might even guess to which one, but there would be no right answer because I made that up. And probably it was naming the city that would lead to any guesses at which small town it is. It's totally your call on what to do. I know a writer who spent six months somewhere she wanted to be the setting for her novel. Setting isn't always something that stands out to readers the way other aspects of writing can, but OMG was the way she recaptured and wrote about this setting amazing. Her book was published and very successful.
     
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  7. GrammarJedi

    GrammarJedi New Member

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    I'd do a little of both. I think it's always really cool to read a book set in a place I've been and find references - correct ones, of course - to things I'm actually familiar with. On the other hand, it's frequently necessary to invent fictional settings because of the needs of the story.

    I'm a big fan of Kevin Hearne's "Iron Druid" series, which is set in the beginning in Tempe, AZ. Most of the businesses he mentions on Mill Avenue actually exist, and he tells you in his foreword which places are real and can be visited, and which ones he made up. I love that I can actually go and have fish 'n' chips at a restaurant I've read about in a favorite book.

    I will reiterate that it's important to be accurate in both instances, though, unless you enjoy getting angry e-mails. There was a movie set in Tucson, where I grew up, a while back which invented Tumbleweed High School, thinking it sounded appropriately southwestern. Since Tucson always names its high schools after actual places in the area, such as the local mountain ranges, I found this incredibly annoying.
     
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  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Contributor

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    I got lost in Revere once. Can't remember why I was there or where I was going... probably why I got lost.
     
  9. Vince Higgins

    Vince Higgins Active Member

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    My current work is set in Orange County CA. I use actual street names and there are two geographical features (the Santa Ana River, and the Bolsa Chica Wetlands Park) that are important elements in the story. The businesses that play a part in the story are made up, though one of them is loosely based on a little shop in Oceanside CA, sixty miles south, and it's proprietor who is a friend of mine. Another is based on any one of the millions of small immigrant owned convenience stores. In this area, likely East Asian.

    Other minor settings are the San Fernando Valley, which I know well, and a small town near Bakersfield that I drove through once, and then google earthed.
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I can;t get to excited about using a real town name - because the odds of someone from that town finding your story are pretty small, however using real businesses, people etc can land you in hot water if you say anything libelous

    As Ive said before you are probably okay writing that the MC and his date had coffee at star$s if all the drama is about what goes on between them and the shop setting is innocuous, however if you want to write about a health inspector finding half a grey hound in a fridge out back, it better if you invent a diner for obvious reasons
     
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  11. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    I often use real places. Sometimes I change it just a bit. I find that using the real places helps me write the settings.
     
  12. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Karen created a fictional setting for Parham's Mill, a very small pop 150 Appalachian mountain village. Some people have expressed concerns on libility for using real places, if they don't come across well in the story. I would blur the lines a bit if you are saying anything not good about them.

    Thomas Wolfe wrote Look Homeward, Angel, set in my hometown of Asheville, NC in the 1920s. However, he changed the name to Altamont, changed everyone's name, but everyone in town knew who and where he was talking about. He had enough detail for me to recognize the paper route he delivered, because when I read the book, I was delivering much the same route along Woodfin Ave.

    A lot of people got outraged at what he said about them in the book, so much so that he left town. However, after he died, the only ones unhappy about their treatment were those who got left out.
     
  13. Vince Higgins

    Vince Higgins Active Member

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    My writing involves the human condition, and I have always been interested and involved in issues of place and culture. I set my current work in Orange County California, and use real names of real towns and streets and landmarks. Persons and business names are all fictitious.

    I am not concerned about disparaging the local or the culture, merely in describing it, warts and all. There are heroes and villains. These exist any where, but my particular setting provides a backdrop against which my story works. The setting is in fact an important character, and it would be a very different story somewhere else.
     
  14. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Sounds like you have a good plan, go for it! Warts is what Thomas Wolfe wrote about my hometown, 1920s real estate speculation, buying stock on the margin, all well before the day of reckoning in 1929 (and 1987, 2000, 2007. we never seem to learn). Also about whorehouses with well-connected clientele, and speakeasies and rum runners (still Prohibition)
     

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