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Is it better to make up a place in a book or use an actual location?

I know I havent actually been on here before, but that's only because I forgot about it. Lol. But I could really use some help. I'm trying to write a book, but I don't know if I should use an actual location (like an actual town in a state) or just make up my own. Which do you think is better? Again, sorry for just jumping right in after making the account and not using it for a few months :P

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Come on in, Julie. The water's lovely. :)  That's an interesting question. If you want to give a certain feel to a story right away, picking a location your readers will already be familiar with gets them into the groove right away I'd say.

 

For example if I tell you my story will be set in Paris or Nebraska, you immediately relate different images in your mind to that setting. If it's a fictional town name though, you need never worry about there being anyone actually from that town whose name or description might match your characters. Me, I'd like to choose a name just for the fun of making it up. :)

Thanks :) Making up the name is my favorite part of making fictional places too :) And being able to make it any way I want it to be.

Kay Elizabeth said:

Come on in, Julie. The water's lovely. :)  That's an interesting question. If you want to give a certain feel to a story right away, picking a location your readers will already be familiar with gets them into the groove right away I'd say.

 

For example if I tell you my story will be set in Paris or Nebraska, you immediately relate different images in your mind to that setting. If it's a fictional town name though, you need never worry about there being anyone actually from that town whose name or description might match your characters. Me, I'd like to choose a name just for the fun of making it up. :)

I think maybe instead of saying which is better, I'll point out some pros for each and I think the cons are implied by the pros of the opposite.

 

FAKE LOCATION PROS:


-- You don't have to study the region's history. (Saves time, energy, and unleashes the imagination.)

-- Anything goes. You don't even have to adhere to basic physics.

-- Conducive to fantasy and sci fi novels.

-- Create atmosphere of mystery in real life about you. As in, "I wonder which place the author was REALLY talking about?"

 

REAL LOCATION PROS:

 

-- Rooted in reality. Some audiences need that.

-- Built-in audience: The residents of that town/state. (You know you've at least got one place you can easily set up a speaking engagement and, if it's a small town, probably make the local papers.)

-- If your book really takes off, you could end up creating an underground tourist spot of the town, which, in turn, may sell more books.)

-- You might enjoy learning about the history and sociology of a location.

Bravo, Jeremy! Very nice post. I think your point about the sky being the limit if you choose a fake one plus the reduced research time would sway me in that direction. Although the built-in audience is a great selling point for using a real one too...argh! I'm torn. :)

Jeremy Vaeni said:

I think maybe instead of saying which is better, I'll point out some pros for each and I think the cons are implied by the pros of the opposite.

 

FAKE LOCATION PROS:


-- You don't have to study the region's history. (Saves time, energy, and unleashes the imagination.)

-- Anything goes. You don't even have to adhere to basic physics.

-- Conducive to fantasy and sci fi novels.

-- Create atmosphere of mystery in real life about you. As in, "I wonder which place the author was REALLY talking about?"

 

REAL LOCATION PROS:

 

-- Rooted in reality. Some audiences need that.

-- Built-in audience: The residents of that town/state. (You know you've at least got one place you can easily set up a speaking engagement and, if it's a small town, probably make the local papers.)

-- If your book really takes off, you could end up creating an underground tourist spot of the town, which, in turn, may sell more books.)

-- You might enjoy learning about the history and sociology of a location.

When I first started writing my book, I used a fictional city with made up street names and everything...I even drew out a map of the city....and then, I decided since the book was loosely going to be based on my teen years to go ahead and used the actual city I grew up in.  This made it easier for me to describe locations because they were actual locations and street names that I was familar with.  They also tied into the story since, as I mentioned, the book was loosely based on my teenage years and some of the events mentioned in it actually took place during that period of my life...
hey Julie, its best to make up a unreal place that way you'll be able to make up anything about that place and no one can say your wrong. and another pulse side to making up a place is that it will expand your imagination bigger.  any time you need advice  on anything just ask you not so old fourteen year old friend halim
The problem with such a thing is that the writer will mostly assume the reader is perfectly familiar with the area it's set in. If I wrote a fanfic set in Grand Theft Auto 3's Liberty City, I could describe very minor details and let people's memories of the game do the rest.

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