So, you have your characters and you have your story, well, more or less… Now you must set the scene. Will the best part of the action take place in your home town, or some other place you know well, or will it be somewhere that’s entirely your own invention?
The beauty of using a real place, especially one on your doorstep, is that you can save a few brain cells as you don’t have to imagine the setting as well as everything else. It’s all there, in your mind’s eye. It can even be in your actual eye if you get out there and follow your character, literally, down your chosen street. That’s quite a nice little kick-start, I find, if you’ve got a bit stuck.
On the other hand, there are hours of endless fun to be had in creating a whole new city or village or vast swathe of remote moorland. Being the queen, or king, of your own fictional domain has the bonus that nobody can question it because if you use a real place, somebody, somewhere, will be only too pleased to point out helpfully where you’ve gone wrong!
Perhaps, though, there is no such thing as an entirely fictional place, unless, possibly, you write fantasy. I’ve looked at my own settings and they are a mixture of the real and invented.
When I used Brighton, my home town, I kept it recognisable in terms of flavour and identity but changed the names of streets. For example, Brighton is full of Regency houses and crescents but there is no ‘Regency Crescent’. Well there is now because I sent my character off to live there, in a house that’s a mixture of several real houses. A little row of cottages I know found itself transported to my fictional village, along with the high street from somewhere else. The town in my current novel is turning out to be an amalgam of Salisbury and Maidstone and Sandwich and Arundel…
Well, it’s all great fun, isn’t it? One of the perks of this writing game. I’ll leave you with a couple of questions if I may:
Do you prefer to read books with real-life settings? If so, why?
What is it about a real-life place that might inspire you to use it as a setting?