In Real Estate we all know it's location, location, location. But how about in fiction? Where do you set your story?
First, I want to exclude from this discussion any fantasy or sci fi that takes place in another world or time. Obviously, in that case, the setting has to be a world the author creates. I'm talking about about a story that happens here and now. The nice cozy set in a small town. The gritty crime drama or urban fantasy that needs a big city.
But which kind of city - real or fictional?
Sometimes the story dictates the choice. A story about a murder in the US Senate would have to be set in Washington DC. But maybe your story just needs a city. Any city. Size and geography not really that important. Do you pick one or make one up?
If you're lucky, the city you just happen to live in - and know like the back of your hand - is the perfect setting for the story you want to write. Congratulations. You're good to go. But what if you live in Tinytown, Iowa and your story needs a big city setting, preferably one on the coast? Well, there's always the extended visit, if your research budget can handle it. Learn the layout, soak up the culture, take copious notes. Or you can try the virtual visit. Go online and read everything you can find on your place of choice. Look at pictures. Follow the local news. You can get a pretty good picture of a place this way. Probably enough to make your settng believable. But be careful, because someday someone who lives in that fair city is going to read your book and if you have your hero taking the Blue Line in Boston to Fenway Park, you've lost all credibility. (It's the Green Line).
Hmmmm. Make up your own city and you can't get it wrong. So that's the better choice, right? Well, not necessarily. When you use a real location, a lot of the work has been done for you. The stage is already set, the backdrop painted, and all you have to do is describe it. Plus, if you pick a place that is fairly well known, your readers may already have a picture in their mind for you to build on. That can be a big plus.
So which way do you go? What do you think? As a reader, do you prefer stories set in real places or ones from the authors' imagination? As a writer, what kind of settings do you prefer to use. Why?
My current word count: 15,071
I'm currently enjoying: Absolutely, Positively by Heather Webber
Groaner of the day: Many years ago, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans had a problem with a mountain lion. This lion had cost Roy and Dale a number of head of cattle, but what really got Roy's attention was one night the big cat crept onto the front porch of their house and mangled Roy's brand new cowboy boots, which had been left outside overnight. That was the final straw. Roy saddled up Trigger, called his faithful dog Bullet to his side, and rode off to find the mountain lion. He found the lion and shot it and tied the carcass across Trigger's back for the ride home.
As he rode up to the house, Dale, who was sitting on the porch, said, "Pardon me Roy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoes?"
[Okay, if you've been around long enough to recognize all the charactors mentioned in this groaner and get the pun (hint: it's a song), you have to admit it in a comment.]