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Putting the Urban in Urban Fantasy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Deleth, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. Deleth

    Deleth Dreamer

    In my current project which for my own paranoid resons I shall call "Glumbo", point aside, in project Glumbo I seem to be torn on the setting in which the story will take place. One of the rare times that a story idea came to me before the setting idea did, so I dropped the plot right here in the real world becuase it just seemed to fit.

    The problem is I can't decide if I should have the Glumbo take place within the town in which I life and am fammiliar (Boise area, Idaho) or move it to another, much larger city where the story could also take place.

    Here is teh question that keeps comming to my mind, Is it better to write around that with which you are fammiliar or to write around that with which you are not fammiliar?

    Background: the story involes among other things chasing severe thunder storms, so I'm trying to stick to the midwestish area where those storms still occur regularly but do not spawn tornadoes.

    Any help is appriciated, thank you!
  2. Deleth

    Deleth Dreamer

    This is the 5th incarnation of the rough draft and I've changed the setting three times, so I need some advice lol.
  3. Mythos

    Mythos Troubadour

    Unless you are willing to do a ton of research, I would suggest that you place your story in an area you are familiar with. You might still have to research, but you should make less mistakes. But if you enjoy research then you can place the story wherever you wish.
  4. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    Why not coming up with your own fictional city? That way you can base it on what you're familiar with but you aren't limited to what exists in the real world.
  5. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

    Half the fun of the Urban and Contemporary fantasy I've read was that they are real places. Dresden's Chicago, the various versions of London in Neverwhere, Rivers of London, Moon over soho, the list goes on. I set my own UF books in a fictionalised Edinburgh, in Scotland.

    You do have to know the places you write about. I needn't even say it though because that much should be obvious. Going to the places you're writing about and getting a feel for the atmosphere at any given point is good, of course it is, but if you can't its time for research. There's no easy way of saying this, but if you're going to set a story in a real location you need to do lots of research. There is absolutely no way around it. If you don't do it... well, people will know. Unless of course you set it in a tiny town no one's ever heard of (even then though you'd be surprised, many people crop up telling known authors what they've done wrong about the location. In fact picking holes in a story is something people get a kick out of haha)

    So. Either do it right (with all the hard work necessarily... which will pay off may I add), or don't do it at all (which is also a good method). Familiar locations will feel more real, that's the way it goes with Urban Fantasy, but if you pick somewhere you don't, you just need to do enough research to muddle through. (Rhetorical: Where are you going on holiday this year? Could you make notes while you're there? I was once going to write a UF story about manhatten, specifically broadway and the streets off it. I'd been that month and remembered a little bakery we visited and some kind of restaurant to do with ... lobsters? so yeah.)

    I personally love a good bit of fiction set in a place I've been to or know. Like Ian Rankin's Rebus novels, detective/police procedural set in Edinburgh, (I got a real kick out of standing in the eponymous fleshmarket close for example ;))
  6. Deleth

    Deleth Dreamer

    Ther reason I do not want to create a fictionalized town or world is becuase I've already a project where I created a whole world. The writing process on that story took 17 years but I finally had a full world and finished manuscript which is going through one final rewrite before editing.

    I'm also building a world for/with a few friends for a video game we are attempting to design as a hobby.

    I refuse to try and think of another, two worlds plus the real one is enough for me right now. :)

    Queens enslish aside (your post was fun to read JC) JCFarnham brings up a good point, the fun of urban fantasy is it is a place in the real world that you can visit. Like Forks in the Twilight books, Chicago in The Dresden Files, and Hopewell Illinois/Seattle in the Word and Void series. It just makes the story seem more real.

    So I suppose my followup question should be if I know the place in which I life very well, but no one else really has heard of or been here should I move the location? Than again to counter my own point I never heard of Hopewell before I read Running with the Demon, or Forks before I read Twilight. But each story worked in its setting because it was written well...so apparently, nevermind on the question. :biggrin:
  7. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

    Do I really speak that much like I'm British? You're not the first to say that you know... by far heh oddness.

    On one hand you'll be able to get away with much more in the small town setting. Aside from getting the street/place names right, I don't think any one who reads you story would have any problem with artistic license [probably never been there right?]. The fact no one's heard of it is also a downside of course, a double-edge sword. It might as well be a made-up place [like Forks is for me...].

    On the other hand, you'll get many more people engaging with a more well known setting because ... well, more people live there and will have heard of it. The downside being that if you get something wrong people are more likely to notice.

    Weigh up the pros and cons of each option, let your plot have a say, and you should with a bit of luck find your answer.:p
  8. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    It's better to write whichever fits the story and motivates you. Personally, I'd write the one I know the most about. You can provide a unique perspective on your city. The book might stand out because doesn't take place in a more recognizeable city. Lots of people set novels in NYC, Chicago, and LA. I don't think I've read anything set in Boise. I'm pleasantly surprised when I read a book and find it's set in my area, so I imagine local readers will be supportive of a novel written about their neck of the woods.

    My WiP is set in Albuquerque, a city I'm familiar with. Unfortunately, it isn't important to my MC to know where he is, so he doesn't bother to mention place names. I'm not sure the descriptions will be enough to get it across, but it was important to me to have a real world place to refer to.

    There isn't a good reason for me not to set it here. After all, I've never been to Westeros or Narnia, but I still read those books about those places. People might not be as familiar with Albuquerque as they are with Denver or Houston, but that won't stop them from reading a good book. I don't know anything about Boise, but I'd read a book set there.

    I always wondered why it's called "urban fantasy." If I set a fantasy novel in rural Oklahoma, is that still urban fantasy? Does it become pastoral fantasy or what? It's a silly genre name.

    So you usually come up with settings before plot, too? In my WiP the plot and character came first, which is backwards to how it usually goes for me. Funny how the solution for both of us was to put it in the real world. :happy:
  9. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    You can use generic locations. A bar is a bar is a bar no matter where you go. So using that, you can use your local bar and set it in your fictional city. So you're kinda exporting familiarity into your fictional place.

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