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Which is better for a beginner...

Dragon tea

Dreamer
Ok, so I have never written anything outside of something required to hadn in for a grade. well, not entirely true. but nothing that was shared with anyone else ha.

My question is as a total novice, would it be easier for me to use an existing location or make up something entirely? I thought I knew where I wanted my story to take place, but as I jotted out other details as they came to mind, I realized I don't know a lot about the place. I've never been there and it gives rise to so many questions. If I use a real city, for arguments sake lets say London, would I then have to use all real places, buildings like the Natural History Museum or Buckingham Palace? Real schools and streets? Or if I did use London would I really need to be that specific with naming the school or could I just leave it vague and refer to it as only that? Or could I use real locations and fake names? London but a fake school name?

Lots of specifics either way, I just wonder is there an option that may be less stressful for such inexperience?

I welcome any advice you may have to offer.
Thank you
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Specificity is usually the stronger choice. Using a real city like London, and having that tie into the story in some way, would usually be the stronger choice.

You can also create a unique town and have some part of that town's uniqueness be relevant to the story, which in turn justifies making that unique town and not just using London. (i.e., the Mayor is in cahoots with the villain....)

But that may not matter. All the specifics of your actual school may well be enough to satisfy the readers. Plenty of school stories have little reference to the neighboring town - it's weaker, yes, but if it's largely unimportant, then you can work around it pretty easily.
 

pmmg

Vala
301 baker street does not exist, but its a pretty famous London location.

As a complete beginner, I would expect you will find your early works are the mostly the ones you learn how on, and during this phase, you'll get a much stronger feel for how to build the world and how real/make believe you want it to be.

I do not think I would pick London as a location as I dont know it much at all. Other than the usual trappings, I would probably not fool any Londoners with my effort. And if I was going to do so, I would try to avoid giving street or place names to avoid reader recognition of the places. But I would include stuff that was easy to find out stuff about, like the big land mark areas.

But, if I was writing in the real world, I would probably stick to areas I knew something about. If Bowie MD ever shows up in a book it was probably me ;)
 

Finchbearer

Inkling
My answer would be, not necessarily. I’ve read books that are set in say, London, or Paris, that then contain real and fictional places. It’s a skill to weave your fictional world into a real one, and it is how it’s done. The second method if you like is creating a fictional location based on say, London. So your creation would just feel like a large English capital, with names that sounded familiar. I mean the Harry Potter series is based on British places and culture but Hogwarts doesn’t obviously exist.

That being said, I think you’d need to consider the cultural context of your chosen location to make sense to your readers. I’ve read a few books for example written by American authors who base their fictional worlds in the UK, and there has been lots of little ‘mistakes’, but if their readers are mostly American themselves, would they even notice? I’m using American authors as an example but I’m sure there are plenty of other cases where a story hasn’t come across as believable for the same reason. It’s just because I’m British and know my own culture and country to a large extent. Would be the same if I were to try and write a story set in a town in Texas. I’m sure I’d get a few details wrong. It wouldn’t put me off trying necessarily but it’d have to feel like the right choice for me.
 
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. There are examples of succesful and bad stories for both of the options.

As a beginner writer I think the most important thing you can do is write. It's how you learn. Your first few stories will not be very good, but that's okay. That's the case for everyone. I know mine were pretty bad.

With that in mind, I would pick the option your are most eager to write. If you want to set your story in London, then go for it. It that gets you writing then great. Don't worry about the rest. There is nothing wrong with starting with a real location. It's easier since you don't have to come up with all the names or the layout. It's one of the reasons I believe writing fan-fiction is a great way to get started with writing.
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
And if you are writing about a city, that you don't know really well, then it is a great excuse to go on holiday there, I mean go and research the locations.
I've just spent a week in London being a tourist. I only live a hour or so away, but I realised I had never been to the city as a tourist.
so I did the whole thing [or as much of as I could afford], the tour guide bus, the Jack the Ripper walking tour, the river cruise [again with guide], went and saw a West End Show and a load of museums and galleries. I learnt a lot about London I didn't know I didn't know.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
I mean the Harry Potter series is based on British places and culture but Hogwarts doesn’t obviously exist.

For the most part Hogwarts stands alone, and the fictional town of Hogsmeade serves all the normal functions of the town by the school. But one of the most iconic early moments in Harry Potter is Harry boarding a typical British train at a real London train station, where he has to get on at Platform 9 3/4s. You could easily have the whole Harry Potter story without it, sure, but I mean, it's iconic. Kid takes the London train to magic school. All that real-world specificity makes it stronger. It's a thing.
 

Finchbearer

Inkling
For the most part Hogwarts stands alone, and the fictional town of Hogsmeade serves all the normal functions of the town by the school. But one of the most iconic early moments in Harry Potter is Harry boarding a typical British train at a real London train station, where he has to get on at Platform 9 3/4s. You could easily have the whole Harry Potter story without it, sure, but I mean, it's iconic. Kid takes the London train to magic school. All that real-world specificity makes it stronger. It's a thing.
Absolutely. This is a great example where Rowling has woven real places into her fiction writing.

Another example of being inspired by a culture though would be 4 Privet Drive, this doesn’t exist in real life, it just represents many of the middle of the road suburban housing estates in the UK, but it feels real because it has been inspired by something that many people can identify with.

Kings X is iconic anyway, just look at the success of Brief Encounter.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I echo other advice here: get it written. The time to fuss over this sort of detail is in edit.
 

Dragon tea

Dreamer
So the setting I was thinking in my head was actually somewhere in Japan, as martial arts was going to be a strong thread of the story. But my issue is that I have never been to Japan, nor do I have extensive knowledge of different martial arts lol. Ask me why I would pick things I know nothing about and I'll plead insanity ;P
Seriously though, since I don't know much about Japan specifically, then I was thinking ok, make up a town somewhere in NA and make it heavily settled and influenced by Japanese culture - that seems like a decent alternative, besides having to come up with a name for somewhere that doesn't already exist, right? right? 🤦‍♀️

thank you for your advice. the first thing I think I will do once I am able, is to just start writing anything! it doesn't even have to be this story that I have started plotting already
 

Dragon tea

Dreamer
My answer would be, not necessarily. I’ve read books that are set in say, London, or Paris, that then contain real and fictional places. It’s a skill to weave your fictional world into a real one, and it is how it’s done. The second method if you like is creating a fictional location based on say, London. So your creation would just feel like a large English capital, with names that sounded familiar. I mean the Harry Potter series is based on British places and culture but Hogwarts doesn’t obviously exist.

That being said, I think you’d need to consider the cultural context of your chosen location to make sense to your readers. I’ve read a few books for example written by American authors who base their fictional worlds in the UK, and there has been lots of little ‘mistakes’, but if their readers are mostly American themselves, would they even notice? I’m using American authors as an example but I’m sure there are plenty of other cases where a story hasn’t come across as believable for the same reason. It’s just because I’m British and know my own culture and country to a large extent. Would be the same if I were to try and write a story set in a town in Texas. I’m sure I’d get a few details wrong. It wouldn’t put me off trying necessarily but it’d have to feel like the right choice for me.
this was a concern that crossed my mind. what if someone from the country or city I decide on reads it and the first ting they might think is wtf is all this garbage? that isn't true or it doesn't exist. lol oooops
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
So the setting I was thinking in my head was actually somewhere in Japan, as martial arts was going to be a strong thread of the story. But my issue is that I have never been to Japan, nor do I have extensive knowledge of different martial arts lol. Ask me why I would pick things I know nothing about and I'll plead insanity ;P
Seriously though, since I don't know much about Japan specifically, then I was thinking ok, make up a town somewhere in NA and make it heavily settled and influenced by Japanese culture - that seems like a decent alternative, besides having to come up with a name for somewhere that doesn't already exist, right? right? 🤦‍♀️

thank you for your advice. the first thing I think I will do once I am able, is to just start writing anything! it doesn't even have to be this story that I have started plotting already

Martial Arts studios are all over. Even here, in small town Alaska, there are at least two such places I know of.
 

Finchbearer

Inkling
this was a concern that crossed my mind. what if someone from the country or city I decide on reads it and the first ting they might think is wtf is all this garbage? that isn't true or it doesn't exist. lol oooops
Just go for it! Don’t worry too much what readers might think at first. You might look back and think ‘oh what a load of garbage this is’ but that’s what happens when you first start, or you might think it’s really good! And I would say that experimentation is the cornerstone of creativity, or else you won’t find what works for you or what you enjoy, and you might end up with some happy accidents along the way. I personally find it hard to write fan fiction, because I find it hard to veer off from the original. I wouldn’t want to make a hash of it. I love Pride and Prejudice as an example, those characters are etched in my mind, so I wouldn’t want to attempt to make my own spin off and create a poorly conceived version of it - so making my own world that is inspired by real life is far more preferable.
 

Dragon tea

Dreamer
Martial Arts studios are all over. Even here, in small town Alaska, there are at least two such places I know of.
it's true, but I guess unless I set the story where I live (I don't want to do that lol) I will have the same issue to some degree, won't I? I'm so silly
 

Dragon tea

Dreamer
Just go for it! Don’t worry too much what readers might think at first. You might look back and think ‘oh what a load of garbage this is’ but that’s what happens when you first start, or you might think it’s really good! And I would say that experimentation is the cornerstone of creativity, or else you won’t find what works for you or what you enjoy, and you might end up with some happy accidents along the way. I personally find it hard to write fan fiction, because I find it hard to veer off from the original. I wouldn’t want to make a hash of it. I love Pride and Prejudice as an example, those characters are etched in my mind, so I wouldn’t want to attempt to make my own spin off and create a poorly conceived version of it - so making my own world that is inspired by real life is far more preferable.
Throw on the "who cares what anyone else thinks" mantle, huh?

I don't think if I had written a hundred thousand books successfully and was a millionaire living on my own private island would I ever attempt fan fiction...definitely not ballsy enough for that!!
 

Julia

Acolyte
For sure if you already have it set in Japan but you don't know much about it i'd say just start writing. Trying to get it accurate will lead to a ton of research that'll take you down some irrelevant rabbit holes. Good luck!!
 
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