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This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while: whether to use real towns/cities in my writing or if it’s better to create a fictional one. Or maybe does it depend on the story I’m writing? I have done both and have run into problems with both ways. So, I tried coming up with a list of pros and cons for both.

I used a fictional city for my WiP, Flames of Redemption(that I refer to as my fire WiP). I wanted to have it set around the area where I grew up and where I still live(two different towns but not too far apart). But, I didn’t want to commit to an actual town. I figured with making it up, I’d have some leeway on the details. But, would still have to keep it accurate for the area. But, I could still structure the city the way I wanted to.  Of course, on the other side of this, it means everything is pretty much up to me to create. While this can be a good thing, it also meant I couldn’t just research some of the details.

I’ve also used some real towns/cities. In the western novella I’m writing now, I’ve used towns that are actually on maps from that time. But, very little of that story has actually taken place in either of the towns. But, in the first of my connected series, Slow Revenge, I had planned to set it in Pueblo, Colorado. Not sure why I chose that particular city. I actually started writing this story about eight years ago. This was just a year or two after I’d gone out there with my best friend for a graduation present(from my dad) and fallen just a little in love with the place. That was also when I just loved to write, but didn’t know so much about the writing craft. The story itself changed a bit when I wrote it this time, but I still planned to set it in Pueblo. Except I didn’t do too much research before I started writing. And I had the police department organized completely different than how it really is. Once I realized that, I knew I would have to make some changes. It would take a complete overhaul, and some of the conflict would no longer make sense, to keep it there. But, I wanted to keep it in Colorado. So, I considered moving it to Colorado Springs, which would still take some changing, but not nearly as much, or I may end up making up a city as well. Or I might even end up moving it somewhere else. And I think that’s really the biggest disadvantage of basing a story in a real town or city. There’s always the chance someone will call you out on any thing that’s not true for that place, especially if they know it better than you do. Although, one of the positives is that it’s all ready structured. Although I suppose that could be a hindrance as well.

So, what do you choose to use in your writing? Do you like using real places? Or would you prefer to have more room to make up the details? And the more I think about it, and as I wrote this, I’m thinking I may prefer to use fictional ones.

Comments on: "Fictional Vs Real Towns" (3)

  1. Depends. I use real locations in my human stories, and then total fantasy worlds for my multiverse stories. I find the real locations, you have to do a tonne of research in order to write about them properly.

  2. It is so funny that you blogged about this! I am, right now, in another window world building for a new contemporary romance. (Well at the moment that is what it is; it’s still in the early stages).

    Being called out that I am not “true” to the locale is why I always use fictional towns. That being said, I use the structure and some facts usually of nearby towns/locales when world building. So for my first finished book I chose a small town in Maine and then re-created it (name, businesses, school name, police dept., population count, etc) for my story. The one I’m currently working on is set in Montana (near Hardin to be exact). I didn’t want to use that exact place, and in fact wanted a smaller “town” so this morning was spent using google maps (love this for research!), census data, town websites. travel sites and images to ‘build’ this place in my head and outline.

    It can be a pain, building from scratch. But it’s also freeing for me to do it this way. (It helps that my settings are generally small towns too. Not too much to do with a town of only 3K or so people.) If NYC was my setting, well that would be a different story of course!

  3. I’ve been struggling with this lately as well. My current WIP is set in the town I live in – but I’m finding that there’s actually quite a lot I don’t know about my own town, despite having lived here for nearly 20 years. I have my daily path through life, but there’s so much more to the place than that – and of course my MC has a different life path than I do.

    My other project I’m still waffling about whether to set it in the real world, or a similar fantasy world. Hard to say where I’ll come down on that one. I may do the real world, but make up my own town thing.

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