Story Setting Part 2: Real vs. Fictional

image by Comfreak

First off, remember from Part 1 that setting encompasses such elements as place, time, culture, technology, geography, and weather. Thus, you must decide whether any real setting can work for your story.

Of course, fantasy and sci-fi novels need extensive fictional world building.

Advantages of Real and Fictional Story Settings

 

Real Settings

  • It’s all laid out for you; a good map is a great help.
  • Places you know well facilitate writing the setting.
  • Your hometown makes research easy; everything’s a car ride away.
  • You can choose from many ready-made places to enhance the mood of your story. (For a somber mood, perhaps the rainy Northwest)
  • Actual places give readers a sense of authenticity within the fiction.
  • Places familiar to readers readily supply them with clear images at the story’s outset. Readers enjoy being transported to places they know.
  • Real places can help book sales to people who reside there or to visitors who’ve enjoyed the area.
image by VictorianLady

Fictional Settings

  • Anything goes, as long as it makes sense to the reader.
  • You can still employ a mix of real-setting features but give them fictional names.

 

  • You don’t have to worry about describing actual landmarks, weather, and geography that don’t live up to readers’ expectations or are wrong. 
  • You can develop the setting to fit the needs of your story: a local business, characters’ outdoor interests, and the area’s traditions.

Disadvantages of Real and Fictional Settings

 

image by Unsplash

Real Settings

  You may offend readers who know or love the place, especially if you make statements they consider derogatory.

 You must get your facts right about all elements of the setting, such as geography, weather, and time period.

 You may expect readers to know renowned places as well as you do and unconsciously leave out descriptions they need.

 You could lose sales if book reviews say you did a poor job of presenting a country, state, city, or town.

 You may spend much time researching accurate details on a small town to satisfy only a tiny portion of your readers.

Fictional Settings

  • Developing all the elements of setting can be labor intense.
  • You must ensure the setting elements you develop don’t work against other elements in your story. (In an arid spot, you have the criminal bury body parts in lush parks around the town.)

 Combination Settings

 

Both cases require work, either in research or creating the setting. Perhaps employing a combination and using the advantages of both would help with the labor. You could create a fictional setting that is a composite of multiple real places to provide authenticity and the items your story needs. Or you might create a fictional place within a real country or state.

What to consider when deciding between a fictional or real story setting. Click to tweet.

How have you used fiction and reality in developing a book’s setting?

3 Launch Pads from Which You Can Blast Off Creative Ideas

“In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done his best.” —Eric Liddell

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you used the same launch pad, the same source, for your creative ideas? Has the distance your ideas have soared become shorter?

Then it’s time you try a different launch pad or improve the one you’re using. Here are 3 launch pads your creative ideas can blast off from.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launch Pad 1. Your Experiences

This is probably the easiest and most popular launch pad. But in our Financial Peace University class, Dave Ramsey made a poignant point about our experience with money. With credit, debit, and ATM cards, we no longer feel the pain of shelling out money as we do when we count out dollar bills and coins. Instead, the pain comes when a check bounces or we realize we lack rent money.

Possibly, we need to revamp our “experience” launch pad. The experience of attending that class alerted me to how some of life’s improvements have desensitized me. I want to seek new experiences that allow myself to feel all the wonderful emotions God gave me.

My creativity thrives from those experiences in which I feel wonder, surprise, sadness, empathy, pain, awe, joy, my funny bone, etc.

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launch Pad 2. Your Research

For us who see research as work, we may forfeit some great ideas if we avoid it. I’m often surprised when I’m reading a book or article and an idea pops up for a project. Or while I’m researching the Internet for my novel, I’m delighted when something grabs me and an idea forms for another activity.

I learned how amazing research could be when I attended an American Christian Fiction Writers Conference when Francine Rivers was the keynote speaker.

Earlier on a cruise in the Mediterranean, I happened to be reading Francine Rivers’s A Voice in the Wind. The ship stopped in places the Apostle Paul visited: Rome, Corinth,  Athens, and Ephesus. I was stunned how Rivers brought alive Rome and Ephesus, whose streets we walked.

At the conference, I said to her, “You must’ve had the same tour guide we had in Ephesus, because you captured what he related in your novel.” She answered, “I’ve never been to Ephesus.”

This experience launched my great respect for research and how it can give me ideas for scenes in novels.

Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launch Pad 3. Others’ Experiences. 

This could come in the form of eavesdropping, an email loop, biographies, famous quotes, friends and family.

After I watched the movie, Chariots of Fire, I watched an interview on the DVD about Eric Liddell. He was the 1924 Olympic medalist runner who refused to run heats on Sunday. Elderly people, who’d been youths imprisoned in the same Japanese interment camp as Liddell, related Liddell’s selfless service. His example for youth as a runner and missionary touched me.

This birthed the idea for my hero in the romance I’m working on. My hero also saw the movie when he was young and his dream is to be the Eric Liddell of golf. Giving the youth of today a role model.

If you’re running dry for ideas from your favorite launch pad, try increasing your exposure in another.

Do you have another launch pad for creative ideas? How have you used it?