Outside of a very ambitious futuristic urban fantasy, all of my current projects & ideas are a mixture of southern suburbs. Tennessee, North Carolina, an unnamed place in an unnamed state that’s hinted at not being very far north. For a long time, I used fake towns exclusively. More freedom. Less running around to make sure the cemetery will work for my needs before I start making stuff up. Haha.
Somehow, for reasons unknown and mysterious, I started using real towns. Not necessarily towns I’ve been to. It’s fiction. I take allowances, you know. And this what Google is for. (Haha) Overall, I’m totally comfortable using real places. Just sometimes, there’s something a wee bit distracting about it.
“Discord” took place in Bar Harbor, and the reason why was because I wanted a northern coastal town with a college, and I liked those pictures the best when I googled “eastern coastal college towns.” I didn’t run into too many problems, really, but I did have an agent request that story mostly, if not entirely, because it was based in Bar Harbor, and honestly, that freaked me out. I’ve never been to Bar Harbor! I’ve visited southern Maine, and parts of Massachusetts and Baltimore, and it’s gorgeous up there (in the fall, anyway, it’s the only time of year I’ve been), but it’s not like I can really capture what it’s like to live up there.
This isn’t a problem, per se, it’s just something for me to be neurotic about later. I also realized too late that I could have easily set the story in coastal North Carolina, which I would have been more comfortable with. This doesn’t mean I’ll never try to set another story up in the east coast – again, I take liberties – I’m just saying. Besides, I’m sure I will because I just love the trees up there! (I have taken so many pictures of the trees up there!)
I know. Tennessee has pretty trees, too. And I also take pictures of them. But our leaves don’t start changing until mid to late October and then they just fall off. Up north, they get such a pretty pattern that just hangs around for weeks. It’s so romantic and sets such a great backdrop for literature. But I digress…
I set a story in an unnamed British town once. I got to use colorful words like “wanker” and “torch” for flashlight. That was fun. It was set in Europe out of necessity though, not because I wanted to. I wanted to set it in Boston, but there aren’t any buildings in America that are old enough for what I needed. I forget how young the states are sometimes in comparison to the rest of the world.
I’ve traveled a lot, more than the average person, and people are people everywhere you go, you know. They may sound different and dress different and have different temperaments and words for stuff, but they’re people. That said, I’m southern – it’s going to creep into everything I write.
The good thing about making up towns is that it’s less pressure. I don’t have to worry about where the graveyard is or what kind of college is there or even what the weather or population is like. One time I took pictures of the grounds around a school I was using in story, since it’s within driving distance and all. (Haha) I even went as far as to get the class schedule and lunch menu! They also have a video up on their site that goes through the entire building! Lucky me! >.<
Real, fictional, historical, futuristic, they all have their advantages and disadvantages, I’m sure.
The current project is set in Asheville, North Carolina – a place I’m half in love with. I have a couple of other ideas that take place around there as well. I thought about just referencing Asheville as a nice way to place people before I started making stuff up 🙂 but it didn’t make sense to set the story in some fictional town outside of it when Asheville has everything I need. And a bonus, I’ve not only been there a couple of times and walked around, I also know someone who used to live there, and I could pick their brain if I had to because I’m adorable and people love me. 😛
In other news, I’m brainstorming a rewrite for the last story I finished: “The Inescapable” – and that’s probably going to take place in the middle of a fictional desert OR a fictional island OR New Zealand. I haven’t decided yet. And I need to because the weather elements are important to the plot. Either way, I’m going to have to make up a lot of stuff. A lot. It’s funny, I’m less comfortable doing that than I am ripping off a town I’ve never been to. I see now why so many authors stay close to home – they have less annoying and distracting crap to worry about.
Random Note: My birthday is on Friday. 😀