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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To Answer Your Question...

This question was covered in one of the newsletters, but I've received some more responses from authors, so I thought I'd share those as well...

the question: What are the rules for using a real location or town for your novel setting? How accurate should you be regarding street names, business names etc. and how much should you invent? For example, I want to set my main character's shop in a seaside town that really exists, but the block I want to put it in is not currently a business district, although I have other reasons for putting it there. If I put it in an actual business district, there would be a different, real store at that location which would also be unauthentic.

the answer: Stephanie Higgins: My fall release is set in my home town. However, I used what I call "fiction writer's license" to adjust reality a few times. I acknowledged this in my "acknowledgements" and let it go at that. I have seen other very well known ABA authors who did same.

Veronica Heley: I can come in on the first question, I think. I use my local neighbourhood of Ealing in which to set the Ellie Quicke Mysteries, but move things around a bit. I use this neighbourhood because it has everything I want in a series of murder mysteries, and all the storylines are based on real happenings. They tell me these books have the feel of a village mystery, but that's because London is a series of villages that grew into one another until they became part of a city.

I change the names of streets all the time, but use the topography, the fact that there are such and such shops in the Avenue (it's actually called The Lane), and shift churches around to order. No one seems to care.

The next series is going to be set in the Kensington area of London and that's an entirely different kettle of fish! Much more up-market, nearer to good stores, no corner shops, everything tripling in price. And not nearly so neighbourly.

New series in 07, The Abbot Agency. No 1 False Charity.
www.veronicaheley.comThe Eden Hall series: ZondervanThe Ellie Quicke Mysteries: HarperCollins/Severn HouseStories of Everyday Saints: Bible Reading Fellowship

Rachel Hauck: Using a real town can add a lot of authenticity to a book. People like to read about real and/or familiar places. While you can use streets and buildings for your story, it's okay to stick a fictional business or home on a real street. Call it fictional license.

I used authentic places for the NashVegas books, yet placed a fictional record company on Music Row. In Georgia On Her Mind, I combined two cities under the same name. Yet, readers who lived in the town loved seeing the familiar roads and coffee houses.

So, feel free to use actual cities, and plop your fictional home or business where you need. Just make sure it's not in the middle of a land fill or a river.

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living insunny, though sometimes hurricane plagued, centralFlorida with her husband, Tony, a pastor. She is agraduate of Ohio State University, and serves thewriting community as an Advisor to American ChristianFiction Writers. Visit her blog and web site atwww.rachelhauck.com.

Deb Raney: If you’re writing about an actual place, then detail—and accurate detail—is extremely important. Readers are quick to point out errors in a novel set in a place they know and love. That, along with the fact that real-life settings change so quickly, is why I mostly set my books in fictional places. But even a book set in a fictional Kansas town, must be true to Kansas and Kansans. And it’s fine to plop an imaginary town down in the suburbs of Chicago or on the Atlantic seacoast. I often have a real town as my “model” for my fictional town. I call my model town’s chamber of commerce to research city politics or business or to find out what blooms when, or when people start raking their leaves in that town, etc. For me as a reader, it’s the little things—the curtains in a room, the sounds that make up a place’s “white noise,” the flora and fauna of a region, the scents in the air—that truly bring a setting to life.


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