Thursday, January 6, 2011

Setting - Real or fictitious?

A books setting is just as important as it's characters and plot. Your characters have to have places to go, places that either make things happen, or trigger other emotions in your characters. An author needs to know as much about the setting of their book as they can possibly know.

So, it's no wonder some authors decide to create their own world, their own town, for their characters to exist in. By doing so the author has more control over the surroundings. To the reader it's still a tangible place they can imagine in their minds. Charlaine Harris has succesfully created a town for Sookie Stackhouse; Bon Temps, Louisiana. It's her a town of her own creation, but it's a place where her characters interact and it shapes who her characters are.

In my first novel I just finished this past year I did the same thing. I created my own town to be located on the Jersey Shore. Yes, that's where I live, but I felt that I could create the place in my head better and then I didn't have to worry about working with a real town. I could decide where the school was, where my character worked, her place of work was a complete fabrication as well. I had complete control over everything involved with her little town.

So it was bound to happen that I would decide to use a real location at some point. Over the Christmas holidays I was playing around with a location to base my next characters in. I kept flip flopping on whether to use a real location or a made up location. I finally settled on using a real location: San Angelo, Texas.

Yes, I used to live in San Angelo, so it will be a little easier for me to wrap my mind around the town. However, that was fourteen years ago, and I'm sure it has changed a lot since then.

In rolls the research. I had planned on writing this novel during the month of January. It now appears that I may not even begin writing it until the end of January. I have to do major research on certain locations within San Angelo. That said I love the internet. It is the perfect place to research the heck out of subjects. Google Earth will definitely be a tool I plan on using. I need to see how much the town has grown since I was there. Since I'm using a real location I need to know as much as I can possibly know about the town.

Yes, using a real location limits my creativity on the setting, but it also gives me something tangible to go off of. I have a real location that I don't have to make facts up about. Those facts already exist.

As for the writing plan, it's on hold. Research it is!!!!!

What are your thoughts on setting? Real or fictitious?


  1. I've done both. Like you said, using a real location requires uber amounts of research, but the internet takes you where ever you need to go!One of my books is set in two locations: Brazil and Napa Valley, CA. I've visited neither, but the internet gave me everything I needed to create an authentic setting.

    For my next book, I set it in a fictional town in Alabama. Never been to Alabama, so I still needed to do some research, but the town is my own creation. I liked the freedom.

  2. I think it is a good exercise to try both real and fictitious locations. But, creating our own towns is by far the least complicated method.

    Thanks for the comment. :-)

    Good luck with your next book!