Why fictionalize a setting?


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So you’re sitting there at your keyboard, ready to start that quirky comic romance series that’s going to zoom right to the top of the bestseller chart. It’s going to take place in a seaside town on the California coast. Excellent! Now comes the big decision…are you going to set your story in a real town, like the charming Half Moon Bay or Pescadero? Or will you make up a fictional setting, perhaps modeled from a real town? This is exactly what I asked myself as I sat down to hammer out Return To Pelican Inn. My answer? I set the story in a fictional town called Tumbledown, loosely modeled after Half Moon Bay. Come to think of it, I’ve never, to date, set a story in a real town. Why? Here are my top three reasons.

1. Real towns are more boring than those I can come up with in my mind. I live in a city of 80,000 people and it’s lovely, but do we have sand castle contests and establishments like the Brew Unto Others Coffee shop? Nothing nearly that darling. We’ve got Safeways and Chevrons.

2.  People don’t like to know there are murderers in their towns. I write a lot of romantic suspense and sadly, there’s usually a REAL bad guy lurking around somewhere. Best not to set these kinds of villiains in a real town. It makes the residents feel a touch peeved at times.

3.  A fictional setting is clay under my fingers. Need a nice beach for my characters to take in the boat festival? No problem. Want to add a lovely old inn that overlooks the sea with nary a parking lot to mess up the view? Easy! Fictionalizing a setting gives me delusions of grandeur, allowing me to make the world exactly as I want it to be!

Do you like real life settings or fictional ones? Can you think of any that stand out for you? Giving away TWO books this month (including one written by the fabulous Alison Stone) and a Starbuck’s gift card.





12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Elizabeth Dent on July 11, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I love it about your made up towns or real ones . I think I would like the made up ones . Like you was saying I don’t want to know if there is a murder in my town maybe next door .. Thanks



  2. Posted by Suzan Michet on July 11, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I can see from your post the benefits of a fictional town. However, must confess that I thought it was neat in the Divergent series the references to Chicago landmarks … because I have been there. Perhaps that’s the difference … if it’s just somewhere you’ve visited or would like to visit, it’s a draw in a book whereas if you live there picturing a murderer in your town is creepy (and you might get hung up on details). Just a thought.



  3. I use fictional towns. Like you, I love creating them like I want. Many of the charming stores that make fictional towns so much fun to write about go bankrupt in real life!I do like having my fictional town near a real town that my characters can visit. It helps anchor my locale.



  4. As a reader I never thought too much about real or fictional settings, but after reading your post I’m sure I’ve gained a better appreciation for fictionalized settings since you’re right, you can make them out to be whatever you need to make the story satisfying and idyllic for the reader. I liked the setting of a recent cozy mystery I read where the little town consists of everything bookish; the shops, restaurants, etc. all have book themes. It’s called a BookTown mystery series. I enjoyed it so much because I LOVE books so what could be better? If I ever consider writing, I will keep your post in mind. Thanks for the great post!!



  5. Posted by Shanda on July 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Always fictional. Why bother getting it right when I can make it up? Freedom, baby. 🙂 Oh, and I’m lazy and likely not going to spend money to travel there and do detailed reconnaissance. See some pics, do a little online research if I base it on any particular place and no money spent.
    I have always wanted to visit PE Island after falling in love with Anne of Green Gables. Idyllic in my mind. Not sure how much was accurate, but she sure captured a time and place for me decades ago. Now, the only fictional place that stands out to me is Hogwarts and if that really exists, I’m waiting for my owl! 🙂



  6. Never really thought about it before, but after reading this I say fictional! I agree with all your reasons.



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