Lights! Camera! Action! Where will you stage your novel?

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?





3 thoughts on “Lights! Camera! Action! Where will you stage your novel?

  1. Hi Deirdre, interesting questions. I don’t actually mind because, more often than not, I’ve never been to the real place anyway! If the feel of the place is described then I’m more than happy to have fictional. I chose fictional for my novel. I combined the names of three local places to get the name of the town and based it on bits of 2 of the 3 places just so I have it in my mind’s eye.

    With a real life place inspiring me, I think it would be about the feel of the place again e.g. if somewhere felt magical or comfortable or scary and I wanted that feel for my novel, I might use that as a base.

    Thanks for posting

  2. Hi,
    I like to use a mixture in my writing. So my novel is set in Sydney with the Opera House, the harbour, all the other amazing parts that make it such a wonderful place to live but I’ve combined that with a fictitious suburb. I felt that I had to because I was talking about a community and how its people knit together.

    I really enjoy writing and reading both real and fictitious settings. I like books set in New York or other places in America because I’ve never been so it’s a bit of a journey of discovery as well as the story in the novel. I like reading books set in Australia because that’s where I live and I can relate to them totally. I also enjoy books set in the UK because that it where I’m from originally so it’s a nice little reminder of home.

    The setting of a book would never put me off if I was interested in the storyline…that is essentially what makes me pick up a book and want to read it. However, exotic settings – take for example, Paige Toon’s most recent “The Longest Holiday” – was set mainly in the U.S and I loved the holiday feel to it…can give me a real sense of escapism.

    Helen R.

  3. Hi Deirdre, Nice post and two very interesting questions. I do like real life settings for books even if like your Brighton it’s slightly fictionalised. I think there’s a sense of place you get from a book that’s set in a real (or almost entirely real) location and I enjoy that.
    I do have a problem writing about places I’ve not been to and when I decided to write about Glastonbury I hadn’t really thought through the logistics of writing about a place that’s 200 miles from where I live. Thank goodness for Google Streetview! I did agonise a bit about how far I needed to fictionalise Glastonbury but in the end I’ve just changed the names of cafes, pubs etc and kept the street names the same.
    There are certain places that I get a really strong feeling from and those are the places that inspire me. I’ve clearly not learnt from experience as I plan to set my next book in Orkney!

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