Monday, 30 November 2009

Location Location Location

I have this new idea brewing in my head. If I was sensible I would work on one of the stories that is already in progress, but I am not sensible and creating new stories is just so much fun, so I am focusing on this new idea instead.
Anyway, unlike many of my stories, this one takes place in the real world. Initially my choice of locations included either London or New York, because I love those two cities. I limited myself to England or USA because I have lived in both, and besides English speaking places and western culture would be suitable for the story.
Then I decided London because I wanted to set it somewhere I could research easily, if I needed to get the feel for a location. But today I thought that maybe I should set it in Bristol, because it would be far easier for me to research Bristol than London (since London is 120 miles away, and bit pricey to get to regularly, and I live in Bristol). So now I am bit torn.
Like I said I love London and NYC, because they meet my idea of city. I like the bustle, and the feel of big cities. Bristol is far too suburban for my taste, and I have never grown to love it. There are some parts of it that I like, but because it is a big city it could work for my story, and also it might be a reason enough for me to learn more about the place I have been living in for several years. Who knows, I might actually find it bit more interesting.
There are other cities that come way before Bristol on my list...Berlin and Oxford for example...but again, they are not at my doorstep.
What do you think? How do you write about real-life locations? Any tips, opinions, suggestions?


  1. absolutely no help at all. I don't limit myself to places I've been, and so my locations are vague at best in description to avoid making any glaring mistakes.

    But, I wanted to say congrats on the shiny new idea! :-)

  2. I'm like Jamie. I find it much more fun to invent new places. However, I will use aspects of places familiar to me. I always have a fear someone someday is going to read something set in a real place and say, "Hey, wait a minute. That didn't happen there." Or words to that effect.

    I'm also like you in that I can drop a WIP for a fun new idea. Keep at it. And I vote for Bristol. London's been done.

  3. Thanks Jamie/Matt.

    I just feel that unless I have been somewhere, I might not understand the feel of the place. Also, in this particular story, people will be travelling around any given city, so I would need to know places. I guess I just feel more comfortable with the places I have been because then I know I am not making it up entirely.

  4. I had to do some research for my first novel, since I was writing sight-unseen (Woodstock/Oxfordshire/Midlands). Google Maps was a big help as was Wikipedia in my second book, as I made referrences to a load of locations. Of course, I mix the real with the fictional just in case.

  5. I'm with Jamie and Matt, I don't limit myself to places I've been, it's more fun to make them up. Of course lately most of my stories have been set in space, so that would make it really difficult. :-)

    I love it when a new idea starts brewing!

  6. Yep I agree with the majority here. I only write where I've been. In fact. I don't have any location except the midwest in my new WIP...LOL.

    Love those new ideas. I have a problem with abandoning mine for a new idea. Must be the Aries in me :o)

    Can't wait to hear more about your new idea!!

  7. ralfast,
    Thanks for the tips. I'll keep those in mind. Actually, one reason I am thinking Bristol is because it would be much easier to research local history from local library here.

    C R,
    I like to make up places too, but depends on the story. My fantasy stories are set in my own worlds. I feel that if you are writing a traditional romance or women's fiction, you can use a vague location because you probably don't need much specific geography. However, this new idea I have is for Urban Fantasy so I would need bit more handle on geography, and if I am setting it in a real city (though slightly altered of course), I need to have at least some accurate information, and the most reliable method for that is actually being there. Hence the dilemma.

    I have set my books in various locations, including my own fanatasy worlds. I have lived in 3 countries and been to fair few places so it does give me some options, but still, it does get complicated sometimes because I have far better feel for the language/culture of some nations than others.

  8. Cities are, on the one hand, all the same. Literally. Chicago looks like Shanghai looks like D.C. looks like Oslo. (Speaking from experience on all of those.) The only thing that changes is the populace - sometimes - and the language on the signs.

    Now, that said, no two cities are alike, either. Each has it's own unique character, expressed often in it's architecture but also in the descriptions used by the locals in describing a place.

    The bigger the city, the more it has an identity unique to itself - like NYC, DC, or Tokyo - the more pronounced that becomes.

    And speaking for myself, I prefer to have at least walked the streets of any place I write about that's going to be of significant importance to a story. And if I can't get there, then research becomes more important, but research doesn't substitute for time on the streets.

    I think, if I were you, I'd choose Bristol if only because London as a setting is rather common, and unless you're going to do something different with it, I'd give your story something fresh to work off of.

  9. slcboston,

    Thank you for taking the time to write. What you said makes perfect sense. I have always found that each city has its own rhythm. Yes, I think I will probably go with Bristol, if only to try something different.

  10. Hey there! I tagged you for a Meme :o)