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October 1st, 2005, 01:12 PM

This may come off as an odd sort of question, but how do authors think of a location for their characters to live in?

I'm starting my first novel and I am having a ridiculous amount of trouble with finding a place name for my character to live. My biggest ordeal is trying to find the right city/town/village in the United States that nobody knows about.

Do authors ever make up their own cities to plop their characters in? What if there isn't a Blueberry Street in Chicago or a North Avenue in Miami? Do you need to know the city itself to add your character to it?


October 1st, 2005, 01:22 PM
Hehe, I think that's part of why I prefer writing SFF in imaginary worlds. To dodge that problem. ;)

Thread makes me think of Sherlock Holmes, and how London uses the Bakerstreet address (221b?) for tourism purposes...

October 1st, 2005, 01:29 PM
If you know a little town that would be great, use it. You might even get 'local author' credit in their bookstore and a place in a parade if your book becomes a best seller.

If you don't, take a map for any small town, plop it in the best place for it, give it a name and go from there. Less chance of angry mail.

October 1st, 2005, 01:39 PM
Thank you for your speedy replies! They were helpful! Another question, though - Would creating school names cause a problem at all?

October 1st, 2005, 03:35 PM
I doubt creating School names would cause any problems. It's fiction, after all.

At the utmost level of realism, you could take a phone register and transfer the house numbers and names to a detailed map. Let's say you're writing a horror story. Imagine Ms. Daphne Wainwright-Jonse's surprise when she finds out that she's been torn apart by a flock of angry toasters in her King's Road flat... (don't go flipping throuh London phone registers; I made her up ;) )

I think, making up names (and perhaps addresses) is actually safer than using the real ones; especially if you're choosing a random town and have no idea how to be respectful towards certain people/institutions. And take care not to have an insiduous mayor with the real name; politicians tend to take things personally...

Btw, I think this may be relevant: My edition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods has the following disclaimer:

Caveat, and Warning for Travellers

This is a work of fiction, not a guidebook. While the geography of the United States of America in this tale is not entirely imaginary - many of the landmarks in this book can be visited, paths can be followed, ways can be mapped - I have taken liberties. Fewer liberties than you might imagine, but liberties nonetheless.

Permission has neither been asked nor given for the use of real places in this story when they appear: I expect that the owners of Rock City or the House on the Rock, and the hunters who own the motel in the centre of America are as perplexed as anyone would be to find their properties here.

I have obscured the location of several of the places in this book: the town of Lakeside, for example, and the farm with the ash-tree an hour south of Blacksburg. You may look for them if you wish. You might even find them. Furthermore, it goes without saying that all of the people, living, dead and otherwise in this story are fictional or used in a fictional context. Only the gods are real.

October 1st, 2005, 04:06 PM
Fictional schools don't sue. While you can use the name of a city and public streets, businesses and schools are best fictional.

Especially if you're a 'troubled' teen writing about someone shooting up the school. Schools you still have to be careful about.

October 1st, 2005, 05:27 PM
Oh! Thank you, you've been most helpful. I'll probably make up my own town, it'd be easier than researching and I won't have the sinking feeling that I am angering people who actually live there. I have all that I need, thank you all very much.

What do you think of Shenoy, Minnesota?
(Shenoy isnít a real place in Minn.)

October 2nd, 2005, 12:44 AM
They say location is everything. Maybe, maybe not, but where your character is can be important. I have been known to use a real location, one I'm very aquainted with, change the names, change the places where it's convenient and the distances, put the whole place in a whole different location and call it something else. Sometimes I make up the map as I go, fitting the location to the needs of the storylines.

You may write with a road map in front of you, but beware of exchanging lots and lots of details about the location for actual story; "She went four miles up Easy Street, then turned on Red Street, to look at all the aspen trees lining the contintually clean sidewalks until she reached the end and turned left onto Park Place where the owners had recently put up high priced hotels....." Zzzzzzzzz


Hmmmm...would that be the home of the Shenoy Shellfish?

October 4th, 2005, 02:17 PM
i think about what the chaacters r suited 2. e.g warm, moutainous, busy city etc, then invent a name that matches.
i probably would ignore wat i just sed, after all, i rite poems! :D

October 4th, 2005, 04:45 PM
Stephen King reuses a couple of fictional cities in his works. Castle Rock and Derry (both in main). He said that Derry is his version of Bangor.


And here's a list of a bunch of fictional cities: