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Question About Fictitious Locations

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Hello all. I have a question and would be very interested in your thoughts.

I wrote a book with fictitious locations as I couldn't find a perfect series of real locations (towns, cities, rivers, islands).

I wrote a sequel to the first book and found a perfect real location for a large portion of it.

Here's the question.

Should I allow a character to travel from a fictitious location to a real one or will this drive readers and reviewers insane?

The other option is to make the location in the second book fictitious as well.

Thank you!

#1 - July 29, 2013, 09:56 PM

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Hi Dave!
Just my $0.02 (and probably worth less), but I would fictionalize the second location. You can create a very vivid fictional location, given that you will be basing it on a perfect physical location. It is a little hard to say, given that we don't know the details of the book/plot, but I think that jumping from fictional into real could be jarring for the readers (and reviewers) who are already invested in your fictional world and characters. That said, Rick Riordan does go back and forth from fictional and real locations very well and effectively, but he has done it that way from the start rather than switching from one to the other in subsequent books. I'll be interested to see what other say.
#2 - July 30, 2013, 06:12 AM

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I find it easiest to stick to fictional locations with realistic details, less room for error, and a lot less research required. But it really depends on what works best for your particular story. If your first location could easily be real, then it might be okay to switch to a real one. Good luck!
#3 - July 30, 2013, 06:27 AM
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I think fictitious is better as well. If you use a real location there will always be readers from that area that say, wait a minute, that street doesn't run in front of that building, or that river doesn't run as far as that neighborhood.  :uhuh Whereas if you come up with your own place names you can base it on a real location without having to answer to the critics.  :love5
#4 - July 30, 2013, 07:46 AM
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I don't see a problem with characters from a fictitious little village going to a known place or vice versa.

For me, the place is a character itself and if I need a drugstore or park at a particular location, I invent it in a known place. That's what the author's note is for -- to let readers know what liberties I took. But fictitious towns work just as well as long as they are richly imagined. I really need to be able to see my characters move around in the space you've created.

Good luck,
#5 - July 30, 2013, 08:06 AM
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I would also lean to fictitious, basing it on your "perfect real location" as much as you like.

But I don't think it's verboten to have a character travel from a fictitious to a real location. I can have my character based in Not-On-Map, WI, in book one, and have her travel to Milwaukee in book two. It's just that in Milwaukee, I need to know whether Jefferson and Wells really intersect or not.

Depends what your story needs.

ETA: I think this works better if the real location is fairly large. Exactly reproducing a smaller town or village can seem like an invasion of privacy.
#6 - July 30, 2013, 08:06 AM
« Last Edit: July 30, 2013, 08:09 AM by mrh »
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I use fictious locations based on real locations and readers enjoy seeing that town X is really town Y. When the town is fictious, you don't have to worry that a store you mentioned closed shortly after the book comes out or a landmark is town down or whatever.
#7 - July 30, 2013, 08:45 AM

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I created a fictitious town in a real county in Indiana and have them travel to real locations in the county or outside the county as necessary.

I wanted a small town setting and personally I did not like the idea of using a real town of that sIze.  It is too hard to fit in a fictitious house or two. 

I think when you use a large city, you can use a neighborhood and sort of make up a setting that would fit in with the area and no one really would question it (most of these books use a disclaimer). However, I am currently reading a book that is supposed to be set in Nashville, TN.  The author has invented a street name (fine), but has done a poor job of locating the street in the city, says it take her 10 to 15 minutes to get. meh - unless it is extremely close to what sound to be a downtown office and I doubt that, it would take about 20 minute.  It takes about 20 minute to get to any part of Nashville from the downtown area.  I know because I lived in that area.  Nashville has clearly defined neighborhoods and so far she has only named one, maybe two to make it sound like it is even in Nashville. Otherwise the story could be anywhere.  An easy trap to fall into when you try to disguise a part of a real city.
#8 - July 30, 2013, 11:47 AM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

I have used a fictitious town in a real country, where the character traveled to a real city.
I have also used real towns in real countries but with other fictitious elements that I made up.
I have found MapQuest to be helpful in getting streets and things correct, if that's something you're worried about.
In my current project, which is set in a real setting, it was helpful to refer to MapQuest even
though I had spent time in that particular city.
#9 - July 30, 2013, 12:16 PM


Allowing the character to travel to a real town can give the reader a feeling of connection to the setting that you can't have with a fictitious city, and if you drop clues about the city without naming it, it also acts as an easter egg or a treat for the reader that figures it out.
#10 - July 31, 2013, 06:39 PM

Wow. What a great discussion. Thank you all so much for your input. You've been a great help.   :love5:

I've made a decision but have a feeling I'll flip-flop on it a couple of times so I'll give it some thought over the weekend and revise as required!

Thanks again.

Dave (ND Richman)
#11 - July 31, 2013, 08:02 PM

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I don't see why you couldn't have a fictitious location as long as your book is fiction. GILDED is based completely on actual places but that's what I wanted. I wanted my reader who lived in Seoul to be able to walk the street and pinpoint certain locations. So I guess that is completely up to you!
#12 - August 01, 2013, 01:00 PM
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As long as you do enough research to avoid glaring errors, I see nothing wrong with using a real city or mixing fiction with reality in locations. It's a novel and you can make up what you want. :-)
#13 - August 01, 2013, 01:09 PM

Barb  :owl



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