Most of us have read a book or two in our time, if you have not there is something wrong with you. Some of us have even ventured into the life of being a writer, creating our own stories, our own world filled with characters plucked from the imaginations we have. These stories and characters take place often in made up cities, towns, and countries, other worlds and sometimes-alternate versions of our own.
At the beginning of just about any fiction novel, there is the “legal” page, which states something along the lines of all places, people and things in this novel are fictitious and bla bla bla. Here is an example of one from a book I am currently reading:
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
I was thinking about my first published novel today called Running Northwest while I was putting things together for my short story release called Christmas Senses when a thought occurred to me. I thought about it a lot, I thought about all the books I have ever read short stories included. Not very many of them took place in real places…according to the legal page. The settings for the stories obviously were based off some place, some city, town or village. The characters of course we “made up” or loosely based off real people, which served as the inspiration. By when authors create the settings they generally refrain from having the book take place in a an actual town or city at least admittedly and I don’t get why.
One movie in particular comes to mind when I think of this and that is the first two American Pie movies. The writers were from my hometown of Grand Rapids Michigan; they lived in what is considered a suburb called East Grand Rapids and went to East Grand Rapids High school. However, in the movie they changed the name to East Great Falls and East Great Falls High school. We have no falls in Grand Rapids of any kind it’s as flat as female gymnasts chest there. They also used a hot dog joint for the crew to meet up at which in real life is called Yesterdog and is located in a section of town called East Town. In the second movie they gang spent the summer at a summerhouse on Lake Michigan in town that is called Grant Harbor, which is actually Grand Haven in real life. I spent enough time there over the years I know what it looks like and does not. Now I understand in the movie making process you cannot always film in actual place the story takes place at ( for money reasons) but why not use real names of towns at least. It’s kind of a punch in the face to Grand Raids that the chuckle heads who wrote these movies (and nothing else that really matters) didn’t even balls up and use actual places here in West Michigan.
Yea your story is made up; your characters are invented usually or at least written in a fictional way in fiction story. Nevertheless, if it is going to take place in Chicago why not just call it fucking Chicago and not some made up name. If it takes place in North Carolina in some small town then use a real towns name not something….um I do not know New Bern, I mean you obviously were inspired by a small town as an author (NS) so why didn’t you say it. Comic books are famous for doing this. For Super Man he had Metropolis, which is New York City; Batman had Gotham City, which is also New York City (but we as readers are supposed to forget they are the same town apparently). The Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern is from Coast City I think and is most likely LA or maybe San Francisco I do not know but it is one of them. I always wondered why Chicago was screwed over in the comic book world…..Chicago is awesome.
With my novel Running Northwest and most things that I wrote or will write, I do a good enough job with my characters and stories that I don’t need to create some fake ass town or take a real town and change the name because I want to be sneaky and somehow original. I mean I could if I wanted to but I most likely will not. RNW took place on the Oregon coast, and I used real names of towns in the book, like Cannon Beach, Tillamook, Garibaldi, Portland and Astoria. I was and am proud of the fact I chose those towns for the setting of RNW. I even used Grand Rapids Michigan in it. I do not see the point of using alternate names of towns and places in everything I write or anything.
Is there some unwritten rule in the writing industry stating that towns must be made up and pretend or renamed? Even if there were such a rule, I would ignore it because that is just a stupid damn rule. Does having your book setting in a real town and saying the name of that town somehow make the book less fictional? Does it make me less creative as an author and writer? I do not think so, so why do so many authors still do this. Below is a copy of MY legal page for RNW.
This novel is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, and incidents are either products of the authors imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, businesses and people both living and dead are purely coincidental. All cities and outdoor locations in this book are very much real places.