Thursday, May 21, 2009

Location, Location, Location ... of my book

For the past several days I've been laboring over where to set my novel Thicker Than Blood. Should I name the state in which it takes place? Should I name real towns or stick to fictional ones? For me, this is serious stuff. The decisions I make now will affect this book forever!

You might be thinking, "Didn't she already write this book?" Um, yes. I did write it. And I made everything up, including the towns. But now that it's finally going to be read by people, I've been reconsidering my reasoning. I'd stuck to fictional places out of equal parts laziness and fear. Laziness because research is not my strong suit, fear because of thoughts like, "What if I get something wrong?" Neither are reasons not to use a real setting.

So as of today I have officially decided to set my book in Colorado. It's a state I love and have visited often, so I feel I can portray it with some realism. I am naming many real towns, like Longmont and Monument. But the main town of Thicker Than Blood, Elk Valley, will be fictional. It's going to be set in a real area of the state under the shadow of the Spanish Peaks (pictured above) where a town called La Veta sits now. But by replacing that real town with a fictional one, I will have some liberties I might not otherwise have had.

I pray I'm making the right choice! :)

What are some novels you've enjoy that have featured real towns? How about fictional ones? Which did you enjoy more?

13 comments:

Timothy Fish said...

Years ago, I read a novel that was set in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Since that's my old stomping grounds, I was disappointed to discover that it was nothing like Cape Girardeau as I knew it. When I wrote my first novel, I modeled the town more after Cape Girardeau than that book did and yet I thought it best to leave the name out, since my town has a more vibrant downtown than Cape Girardeau has. I did, however, mention Jackson, Missouri in a later book. In that case, I was more careful about street names and such. But I had the problem that may fans know that area like the back of their hand. I would probably hear about it if I got it wrong. I think that if I were to choose another real location, I would be careful to get the major landmarks correct. It's one thing to put a house on a street that doesn't exist or put a store where another one is, but if the town's on a river, it had better be on a river, etc. People from that town will pick up a copy of your book and they'll know if you got it right or not.

Tamara said...

Woohoo for Colorado!! If you need any help with things Colorado let me know...I have lived here most of the last 32 years. I drive through Monument every day on my way to work :-)

Tom Davis said...

Love it! I live in Monument, so if you need some real settings, let me know.

Liz Johnson said...

Call me lazy, but I pick fictional towns whenever I can! :) It's so much easier. :) I love Colorado, too. I work just 5 minutes from Momument on the far north side of Colorado Springs, and it's a beautiful area. Best of luck with your revisions. Way to go! :)

Rel said...

Sounds good, CJ.

Don Hoesel's Elisha's Bones has locations world wide and it was wonderful for one of them, where half the action took place, was Australia. Don used many real locations and he did an excellent job. I certainly read it more carefully, hoping for and for once getting, authenticity and accuracy :)

Cory Clubb said...

CJ-

I am using fictional towns and cities in my thriller, but interweaving them with true life places. I want to give the reader that sense of "Oh, hey that sounds like where I live." That way I can make changes to suit my needs for the story and create a brand new place for readers to discover that may just lie a few miles away from them.

Cassie Greutman said...

I love La Veta! I'm actually from Ohio, but my family went out there a year ago to stay at Echo Canyon Guest Ranch. We went into La Veta a couple days for ice cream. The one day there was a die walking down the middle of the road through town, completely unafraid. I tried to convince my parents it was time to move, but there was something about jobs?

Cassie

Nicole said...

I agree with your choice, CJ. Combine the real and fictional and you've given yourself the necessary freedom to create a unique setting within a real area/place. People can identify more easily.

PatriciaW said...

I like anything set in places I know, which includes Cincinnati, Long Island/NYC, and now central FL. But I think its best to do what you're doing--use the real locale as a backdrop to a fictional place. Still a little research, but a lot of flexibility.

goodnewscowboy said...

I like it best when I read novels and I've been to the towns they mention.

Some novels I enjoyed more because I worked in the cities mentioned were "Stones Cry Out" by Sibella Giorello (Richmond, VA) and "The Imposter" by Davis Bunn (Baltimore, MD)

Christina Berry said...

I agree, goodnewscowboy. I love Randy Alcorn's book that are set in Portland. Chances are I just drove past a place he mentions!

Koala Bear Writer said...

I think a balance between fictional and real is good, though it depends on the story. Sometimes the place is very important to the story (e.g., Love Finds You in Last Chance, CA) and sometimes it's more a background.

warrenjc said...

Place is important when deciding whether or not to mention the town but we have to watch WHAT happens there also especially when talking about a real establishment within that town. There is always a chance for litigation if we cast aspersions on it or reveal it in a bad light. Now, I am not a lawyer but I am not sure that even a disclaimer will free us of any litigation.