Location, Location, Etc.

I don’t live in an interesting city.

Don’t get me wrong – I love where I live. It’s pretty, the crime rates are fairly low, everything is pretty easy to get to and the weather is…well lousy, but that’s all right; at least I get to experience all four seasons, even if they can all be extreme. But as happy as I am to live here, I don’t think my characters ever could.

I was thinking about this the other day. I’m starting a new project, and at the present time it’s setting-less. “Enter main character’s apartment”, but it’s still sort of a building floating in the middle of nowhere. I thought for a moment about setting it here, but then realised it wouldn’t work. I know other people have set stories in my area, and they seem to have pulled it off, but whenever I start I always imagine readers giving me the big eye roll that I couldn’t be more creative.

I’m looking out my window and trying to imaging a dragon swooping in and setting fire to the trees. I can’t see it. For me, it’s more likely the dragon would land, pull out his clip board and start checking off squirrel-tree ratio violations.

I don’t have the same hesitations or uncertainty about setting my stories anywhere else, and I’m not sure if everyone feels that way or if it’s just something I need to work on and get over. If you wanted to, could you write a story set in your neighbourhood? Could you see your MC sitting in the pizza place down the street, or going for a run along the bike path? Would your villain have a place to plot and a good well-known landmark to threaten? Or do you, like me, send them out in the world and always have them destroy/save other places?

Am I being picky, or have I just discovered one of the greatest excuses to travel my parents will ever hear?

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7 comments

  1. Previously I pretty much always set my stories in fictional places (on a spaceship, on terraformed Mars, made-up worlds) but my current wip is set in my hometown of Vancouver. I’m actually really enjoying having the characters live out the story in places that are so familiar to me (although some parts of the story take place in different realms). I don’t know that it’s something you need to get over though. Maybe where you live just isn’t the right setting for your characters. Characters can be quite picky about such things! 🙂

  2. I don’t think you’re alone in finding it harder to merge day-to-day reality with fictional imagination. Our real lives come with huge amounts of preconceptions, baggage, actual physics, and just, well, lots of reality. That’s a lot of extra weight to be carrying around when you are trying to launch your mind into the creative stratosphere.

    Also, our readers know our reality as we share it with them, and any discrepancies between what you write and what they know will snap them out of the story. Blending the fantastical with the grit of reality is possible, and is easier with some types of fiction and genres than others, but sometimes it’s easier and more fulfilling for the reader to lead them on a journey of pure imagination, rather than trying to describe an alien invasion down at the local supermarket.

  3. If I’m not setting my story in some crazy dystopian world, it always seems to end up in the city of Atlanta or the S.C. town where I grew up. Not so creative, right?

    Btw, this sentence made me LOL: “It’s more likely the dragon would land, pull out his clip board and start checking off squirrel-tree ratio violations.” And if I saw a dragon do that, I’d think, “This place is freaking awesome…and where did he get that clipboard?” 😉

    1. Haha – the start of a new story in itself maybe? Hm….
      But I admire that you can set your stuff in your neighbourhood. After getting these comments, I’m really interested in giving it a shot. Could lead it something cool.

  4. I like to keep my characters contained to one place for the most part. That place doesn’t have to be my city, but I rarely change locations because the stories don’t really call for it.

Thoughts?

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