1. Partridge

    Partridge Active Member

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    Writing with real-world locations

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Partridge, Dec 22, 2017.

    My WIP takes place in Bournemouth. For those who don't know it, it's a large, cosmopolitan seaside town on the South Coast of England with lots of night life and sandy beaches. People who live there sometimes refer to it England's answer to California.

    To make this clear, it's a place I know well, and a place I love. I'm fully at ease writing about it, so using this real world location isn't daunting at all.

    Road names, names for individual sectors of the town are all included, and I've made sure I'm also geographically correct throughout the book.

    But:

    Is it OK to have fictional buildings in a real location? For example my MC lives in an apartment building by the sea called Astoria Tower which is a fictional building. Is this OK? Does it need to be a real apartment building that you can find on google maps?

    I've created fictional, or at least non specific places quite a lot in my book, to deal with the myriad of bars, pubs and cafes the town has. I don't want to name a specific bar or whatever, for fear of getting sued or upsetting anyone that owns any establishment I may name.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    Sure. You're writing about fictional people and fictional events, so what's a building or two atop an already festering heap of lies?
     
  3. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    There's no problem at all with doing this. Remember, most of the people reading have no idea where you are talking about. What matters is the feeling of authenticity. That doesn't mean that you have to be 100% faithful to reality, it just means that the fictional elements need to feel like they really could be there.

    I write in real world places. I think it matters; I like that they have a sense of being a real place when my characters walk around them. I like that their school really exists and they wear the right uniform, I like that they turn onto the right road and they can see the castle off in the distance. I like that the place they got drunk in the bushes is a place that I've been to (and been drunk in). But for all that; I make some of it up because reality never helps you out. Sometimes you need a character to in a specific place, so they can accidentally run into someone. Or indeed have them not live on the way, so it's cute when he goes out of his way to walk into town with the girl he likes. And that's fine. Just as long as you keep these things feeling like they could be true then no-one will even notice. Even people who live in Rochester probably can't tell off the top of their heads which parts I made up.
     
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  4. Partridge

    Partridge Active Member

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    Thanks to the both you - that was well put, and it has shut up some of the nagging voices in my head.
     
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  5. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    No worries dude :) And kudos for not being from Brighton; the more accurate but far less likeable British version of California ;)
     
  6. Partridge

    Partridge Active Member

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    Brighton's alright. But I think it's been done to death in fiction, a little bit. Bourney has a nicer, happier atmosphere I feel.

    FYI, I'm not from either. I was actually brought up along Lee-On-Solent, but I met my Girlfriend in Bournemouth and spent a lot of time there. I've always felt an attraction, and a pull to Bournemouth. I think it's why I've been enjoying my WIP so much.
     
  7. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Yeah I can understand that. It's much the same reason why I write nebulously Kentish locations; Bromley, Bexleyheath, Rochester even if I don't use the town names much. That's the bit of the world that I crawled around as a teen and where I kinda have a feel for how that works. It's much harder to look at a location on a map and figure out where the kids hang out, where you can quietly smoke a joint and where the cops turn a blind eye. It's that stuff (or at least the adult version of it :p) that I think gives a location it's sense of authenticity. You can make up a street of houses or a high street easily enough, but it's the stuff that you can't see on googlemaps that makes a place feel alive.
     
  8. Mink

    Mink Senior Member

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    It's definitely okay to have fictional buildings and locations in real world cities. Stephen King does this fairly frequently, but so does Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, and more. One of the big ones is Marvel - Stark Tower doesn't exist yet it resides in a real world city. If you really wanted to, you could make up all of the names and yet have them take place in that city. It can help safeguard against suing and it can help keep people from being uppity because you placed a picture in a wrong spot.
     
  9. lonelystar

    lonelystar Member

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    I don't see a problem with doing it, many successful authors do it.
    UK writer Stephen Booth sets the majority of his books are set in the Peak District using a combination of real world places and fictional places. His police station is based in a town that doesn't exist but has characteristics from the various surrounding towns like Matlock and Buxton.
    in Canadian writer Chevy Stevens latest book never let you go most of it is set in Dogwood Bay (fictional) but two of the characters have a walk around Vancouver (very much real).

    They are just two of many examples.
     
  10. LarryM

    LarryM New Member

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    I've done it more than once. I have used real world places that I knew well, but tweaked it to help the story line. For example, I used a street in Tulsa, OK, where I lived years ago. I added an alley behind the house to help a character get to the back of the house without being noticed.
     
  11. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat

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    Raymond Chandler did this very well. He made up the names of places and added some buildings, but the real Los Angeles and his fictional Los Angeles were so skillfully blended so that you can't tell what he made up. You know for example, that "Lido Pier" is the Santa Monica Pier, but you're not quite sure about other places, because they're just as vivid.
     
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  12. Rob40

    Rob40 Active Member

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    The City of Light, I believe, used Buffalo, NY as a setting and where it is currently a Nun's retirement home, in the book it was an Insane asylum. So in that regard, you could try to just relabel already long established buildings for your purpose.
     
  13. DITF Ninja

    DITF Ninja Member

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    Here is the real question you should be asking yourself. Does the buildings being real or fake impact the story you want to write? If they do then make it more real, if not just make it easier for yourself and make that shit up.
     
  14. Thundair

    Thundair Senior Member

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    I write about real places and real events with fictional characters.
    The research keeps me going through the rough patches, down to 'was that word used there'.
    It looks like you won't need to do any research for an area you're familiar with.
     
  15. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm using real settings in NYC for my crime novels. I fictionalize locales for the crimes themselves and certain interactions, but use real ones for others. For example, in the novel I'm pitching this spring, Bury the Past, a mass shooting takes place at a fictional bar on a real street in the Meatpacking District in a location that was under construction around the time of the setting in the novel. Two of my characters have Sunday brunch at a real café in Hunters Point, a block from where one of my characters lives (in a house the address of which I never reveal). My wife and I have been to the café ourselves. I locate my detectives at Patrol Borough Manhattan South on East 21st Street, but I give a generic description of the interior.
     
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  16. Partridge

    Partridge Active Member

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    Michael Connelly agrees with you. Whenever he starts a news book he re-reads chapter 13 of The Little Sister by Chandler, because brings the city to life so well. I'm trying to capture the same magic in my writing.
     
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  17. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    I'm writing a story set in Scotland, primarily Edinburgh and the Highlands. I've used a lot of real names, but also some fake.
     
  18. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Passing rockets to Kasei and Dao Contributor

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    Just been puzzling over the same sort of thing, but I'm wondering how vague I can successfully go in making a non-specific suburb. I'm working on an urban fantasy, I guess you'd call it, and since I don't even have access to the USA at the moment, I'm going to need to invent a lot of stuff. However, the image I want to project is that of a blandly anonymous subdivision-filled burb with street names like Babbling Brook Lane and Mossy Oak road that have absolutely nothing to do with the surrounding geography and everything to do with some corporate marketing department and just writing this out has really helped....

    wow, gotta run.
     
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  19. newshirt

    newshirt Member

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    I would try to base the building off an actual structure, even if the name is fictional.

    Actual people, places, and structures lend authenticity to the story. You can get real inspiration from an actual building... something interesting, unusual, or novel. Plus, astute readers may be able to spot pure fiction if it lacks inspiration.
     
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  20. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat

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    This. There's a real building in Hollywood that appears in one of Raymond Chandler's books that for the life of me I can never remember the actual name of the building, but friends and I always refer to it as "The Raymond Chandler building" when we use as a landmark. ("It's about two blocks past the Raymond Chandler building.")
     
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  21. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 The Queen of Nowhere Contributor

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    I see no problem with it. Granted, I wouldn't put a ultra modern nightclub in a little farm town; that's kind of unrealistic.
     

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