Good day, friends:
I am making my debut as the latest novelist to join Novel Spaces. Should be fun interacting with fellow members and those who love to read or simply like to check out interesting blogs.
Seems the big news of this past week was the "event" departure of LeBron James from Cleveland in favor of the swaying palm trees and sunshine of Miami. I wish James the best of luck in trying to bring Miami another championship with his new star teammates, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Sorry for Cleveland, which will have to regroup and show that they can still remain competitive even without their superstar. At least the city has Betty White to put the spotlight on with some humor in the TV series, Hot in Cleveland.
The Cleveland saga made me think about one of my biggest dilemmas as a writer -- that is trying to decide where my novels should take place (or in some cases, the multiple settings). I often find myself vacillating between creating fictional settings and using real ones. There are pros and cons both ways.
The pros in using a real city or town: it's a place many readers will presumably be able to relate to--especially if a big city, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, etc. Even if the town is small or not as well known, if it is real, people can look up on the Internet and try to mix and match with your novel in terms of landmarks, streets, style of housing, and even the people. This makes it easier using what is already there to build your plot and characters around. As I like to include a sense of place in my stories, having real locations can take me and the characters there to enjoy.
The main con for using a real place is that unless you actually live there and have a firm grasp of the setting, the people, and such, you run the risk of being off center in your depictions that residents or those knowledgeable of the setting will catch every time. This is why I like to thoroughly research my real settings , which can be anywhere in the world, so I am as close to hitting the mark as possible. Also, it gives me and my wife a great excuse to travel close and far away from home and see all there is to see that I can then use in bringing the location and my characters to life.
The pros in using a fictional city or town: I can create a place from the ground up, so to speak, molding to fit my storyline, characters, their idiosyncrasies, and even the location's history. It can be fun to place your fictional city smack dab in the middle of a state where no such place exists. Or even near a real city, such as Detroit or Portland, where I may have my protagonists visit in blending real with fictional and giving my readers the experience of both.
The cons of creating my own setting for a novel are that it takes more time and forethought than simply going with a place that is ready from the start for my characters to go about their lives; also I lose the edge of having a real setting that readers can immediately identify with, even if having never been there. But these concerns are balanced by the three-dimensional characters themselves and their ability to reach out to and hook readers irrespective of their location from one moment to the next.
As it is, I tend to use real and fictional settings in my novels, depending on the plot itself, the characters, and how they work together. There have been times where I started one way and decided later to go in another direction in terms of fictional or real spaces and places.
Having never used Cleveland as a setting in any of my novels, I just may have to give it a go now as the city's gotten my attention; which means a new place to pencil in for me and my wife to visit.
Does it matter to you if a setting is real or fictional? If so, which do you prefer?
Or will any location suffice, so long as the plot and pacing are there along with a compelling storyline and a satisfactory resolution to the conflicts?