View Full Version : location

05-04-2007, 03:13 PM
I'm looking for advice on naming location.

In my first novel, which is sitting on an agents desk as I write (hence the bitten nails!), the location was central to the story - it had to be a town in Massachusetts, because it had historical themes that occured in the state.

My current WIP does not yet have a state, and could possibly take place in any small town.

Is it limiting to give an actual location or is it better to put characters in a particular place?

As I see it, the drawback is possibly limiting readership the advantage being that I can better sink my teeth into physical descriptions and social norms of an area I know well.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Soccer Mom
05-04-2007, 05:17 PM
Give an actual location or invent one, but choose a location. It's better to give something concrete than a vague "anywhere" in most instances. If the story would work in a place you know well, then that's a good start.

05-04-2007, 05:41 PM
On one hand, you can have a lot of fun with an unknown location. If the town has an Anytown vibe, and a common name like Springfield or Lakeview (or something along those lines), you can really play with the fact that this is a town that could exist in dozens of different areas around the country.

On the other, I personally know exactly where a story is taking place before I even start writing. I find that having a location, and being able to do the research on things like average climate, types of trees etc, helps me when it comes to bringing details about my location alive, and making it legitimate.

Good luck. :)

05-05-2007, 03:17 AM
I was very specific in my YA novel- town, streets, schools, stores etc. My editor felt this was limiting and asked me to consider removing most of the names. I think she was right. Now the town is named and a couple streets but that's it. A local reader would recognize the places and certainly having a specific place in mind helped me to visualize the setting and story. I think doing it this way, although it was obviously not planned, worked out well for me. Some people are incredibly creative in inventing settings but I'm not a very visual thinker-- for me, having a real place in mind is much easier.

05-05-2007, 06:59 AM
You should chose a location but don't have to reveal it. Let them guess.

Melanie Nilles
05-05-2007, 07:53 AM
I made up a small town in my area, since I know this area well, because I don't know what a particular high school may look like and I just wanted to do what the story needed. I anchored it by referencing the nearest notable "city" in the area. For my current WIP, I set it in my "city" (the capital has only about 57,000 residents and the characters note that it's a town with a big ego thinking it's a city) and didn't name the high schools (we have four if I recall). But I do use a few landmarks here as reference points that anchor it. I just don't name everything unless it has some significance.

05-05-2007, 03:59 PM
I used a ficticious small town in my YA, but it is based on a real small town, similar to Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha with is actually Oxford, MS. (Of course, I'm not claiming to write like Faulkner.) I gave only one specific organization but I'm considering revising it. In addition, I describe a delapidated two story Victorian home. I went online and found a suitable photograph and imagined what it would look like in disrepair. Bottom line, I believe a real or fictitional location helps anchor the story.

05-05-2007, 05:03 PM
I guess I'm inclined to go with the old adage 'write what you know'. Personally I really like reading about specific places and always want to visit, if I fell in love with the book.

Small towns in Massachusetts do lend themselves to much story telling with the history, fall, old 'haunted' houses, and eccentric people. I suppose if it's a good and well written story, location won't limit readership.

Thanks for the feedback!

05-21-2007, 02:56 AM
My WIP also has a sort of Anytown, USA vibe going. Here's what I'm doing: giving the town a fictional name, as well as descriptions/store names when needed, but I'm not saying the state because it really doesn't matter.

Stijn Hommes
05-23-2007, 02:18 PM
My current WIP is set in an average sized US town, but the name and the state really don't matter, because neither has any relevance to the story. If you know about a place that fits the needs for your story, use it. It makes writing descriptions and choosing locations like shops and houses a lot easier. Just makes sure locals won't catch you making mistakes. If you don't know any workable place, make it fictional.

05-30-2007, 12:26 AM
I'm a fan of making up fictitious places but basing them on real places. Will the name of the place really imact the story all that much?