1. Hublocker

    Hublocker Member

    Mar 27, 2018
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    Real place names?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Hublocker, Jul 11, 2019.

    I'm working on editing a draft of a novel I have set mostly in my old home town.

    From the setting on northern Vancouver Island on Canada's West coast, it is obvious from my description of the town and neighbouring towns where it is.

    I intend to change the name of the main town, but I was wondering if I should change all the others too, or should I just risk it and use the real place names.

    Right now Port Hardy has been changed to Nelson Bay, but I kept Alert bay, Port McNeill and Holberg as real names.
  2. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter Contributor

    Sep 7, 2014
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    Yeah, if it's a small town I'd change the name, change some details of the town to fit the story, and keep some nearby place names (especially larger cities).
  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Jul 7, 2016
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    I would keep all the names the same. Real details ground fiction in a way other things can't. So, even if this is the inclusion of small-town living, something about it rings true. Why change any of the names?
    Cave Troll likes this.
  4. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    I'd say change the name of the main location. Otherwise you'll have people pouring out of the woodwork to tell you that certain streets don't exist in that town, or Maple Street runs parallel to Crapo Street, and there isn't any number 228 on it. They will also be quite determined to figure out who your characters are based on, and this can get you in some bother if you're not careful.

    People from small towns HATE it when their town is depicted 'wrongly.' I know. I'm from a small town.

    If it were me, I'd definitely change the name of the main town where the story takes place. That way you can create anything and anybody you want—including the town's history. You can also retain pertinent details from your real locale, and nobody can complain because you're claiming it's fiction. If you set a story in a 'real' place, folks who know the place will be constantly looking for errors and anomalies. Folks who don't know the place won't care what you call it.

    I'd say keep the neighbouring towns intact, if you want, especially if the only things that happen there are things that really COULD happen there. Such as your characters drive to one of these nearby towns to go to a movie, at a theatre that really exists, then go across the street for a drink afterwards in a bar that really exists, etc. But be careful, again, about making people or situations too recognisable.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
  5. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

    Jun 21, 2019
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    I am doing something similar. My main city is fictitious, an amalgamation really, of a couple of cities I am familiar with. However, we have such cool names for surrounding towns that I am keeping most of them.
  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    With small towns, I would keep the names, since no one outside of them
    really know of them (and in my case believe they are real in the first place).
    Even in my first novel I used a small village in Siberia that is real (along with
    several moons that exist in our solar system, and in my sequel real places on
    Mars.) So keep it unless it is a really common town name, but even then it
    can still add some weight to the story, unlike fabricating a fake one in a real
    country. :)
  7. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

    Sep 17, 2017
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    A lot depends on size of the town and how the townspeople are depicted. If most of the townspeople are depicted in a way they wouldn't take kindly to, or the local government is depicted as corrupt, etc., it's probably a good idea to change the name of a small town. You really don't want a bunch of angry people coming after you (I say this as someone who experienced this as a non-fiction writer). That whole thing about "any publicity is good publicity" no longer applies. But generally speaking, if the town is depicted in a good light, I use real locations with extra-thorough research.

    If it's a large city? Knock yourself out, because percentages are on your side. I'm using real locations in NYC, but I'm researching them thoroughly. Recently a friend was visiting NYC and Facetimed me from one of the outdoor locations while I read him part of a walking scene to double-check the plausibility of it. I don't like when people get details of my city wrong, so I try to be respectful of theirs.
    The Dapper Hooligan likes this.
  8. lonelystar

    lonelystar Active Member

    Jan 14, 2018
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    My story is also set on Vancouver island and also in Vancouver. I'm not using any real names on the island at all.
    I am using the names Vancouver, west Vancouver, north Vancouver, plus names of odd landmarks. (Slightly difficult due to thirty year difference from start to end).
    But I am using made up street names or businesses but taking a bit from several businesses that do exist. At one point I have two characters sitting in a cafe where they can see lions gate bridge - the bridge is mentioned by name because it is a very obvious landmark to ignore if you were stood or sat in the cafes location. There is no cafe in this location.
    When I have named a street/building/business or character I have googled the name to ensure it doesn't exist. But try to be realistic to the type of housing, vegetation, transport....
    But don't lie about two places that exist - don't tell me I can go by ferry from port hardy to Prince rupert direct as this is not true. If your story is set five years ago when you could then that's fine. If it's something the reader can check (especially easily and quickly) then check it yourself.

    Have you read any Chevy Stevens books? Hers are all based on Vancouver island and she uses real and made up names. Might be worth looking at how she does it.

    As Port Hardy does exist and it's location on Vancouver island is obvious I would give it a new name and possibly look at it you need to alter locatuon.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019

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