Using Fictional Places in Realistic Fiction

So you’re writing a book.  Aside from plot and character, one of the most important things is setting.  This determines the when and where of your story.

Let’s say you’re writing urban fantasy or contemporary fiction or something that takes place in the real world about, oh, now.  You’ve got a couple of choices.  You can pick a real place.  You can twist a real place (useful for alternative realities and so forth).  Or you can make up a place.

I prefer the latter for one main reason.

I was born and raised in Colorado.  And, in almost every instance where I’ve read a book set in Colorado, it has manage to offend me in some manner, and I am not that easy to offend.  And I live in fear that I will do that to someone else.   It’s easy enough to make up a town or a city, to draw out the layout or base it on something else.

In fact, if at all possible, I don’t mention a place name.  Most of the time it’s not really important, as long as your description gives enough information, and very rarely does it affect my plots.

Of course, everyone is different.  What do you prefer, as a reader or as a writer?  Do you like having real places, with real street names and real businesses that you can look up on a map?  Or do you not really care as long as everything makes sense?

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by AM on 2011/03/22 at 11:12 AM

    I would like to know how it offended you, so we shall discuss this tomorrow! (Mostly because my trunk novels all take place in Colorado, so I’d like to see if I’m offensive. In other ways than talking about sex and tea. LOL!)


  2. I tend to mention the state my fantasy novels and contemporary fiction novel take place in and then make up the individual communities (provided this is an on Earth sort of story). While some of my made up cities/villages are loosely based on real locations, I like the freedom of a not quite real place.


  3. Posted by Idunno on 2011/03/24 at 10:17 PM

    I find when I write about real places that I can very easily get bogged down in getting the details right (or stuck when reality doesn’t fit where I want/need the story to go). I also find that creating a new place from scratch tends to feel less constrained (and can be a whole lot more fun).

    It’s been a while since I set something in a real place, so I guess I voted with my feet on that one. But I’m not adverse to doing it again. I just need to be mindful of not falling into the trap of trying to get all the details right.

    I am also enormously relieved, after having read this post, that I never set a story in Colorado. I am also thinking, I may have to try that next!


  4. Fictional places are harder, because then people assume that the place is meant to substitute for ‘Boston’ or ‘Sydney’, etc… or so it has been in my experience.


  5. Posted by Nicole Crockett on 2017/08/01 at 1:03 AM

    Honestly, i prefer to write using made up places because i can make a history that will work well within my writing and I dont have to do extensive research to make sure im not using any wrong information on the place. As a reader, it doesnt matter to me. As long as everything fits well.


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