Real Places vs Fiction Places

When you’re writing your novel, how do you manage a healthy balance of real place settings and your own created fictional settings especially when you’re overall book is set in a real city/town?

For my novel, I’m setting it in the city I live in. I know my city pretty well and I’d love to include some of my favorite spots but where would I draw the line? And how would I incorporate fictional places in my very real city?


There’s a huge spectrum from fully fictional to fully realistic places.

  • I love detective stories that play in a real place and I can follow every step of the MC on a map (e.g. George Simeon’s Commissaire Maigret in Paris). I’d say, the plot is fictional then, but the place is not. It is highly interesting to have places involved a reader might know. Maybe, they could be a victim of that murderer they read about! … It adds to the suspense and immersion, I think, because those places immediately become mysterious and maybe even dangerous.
  • On the other hand, places like Green Town, Illinois, (Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine) or Castle Rock, Maine, (Stephen King’s universe) are fully fictional, with fictional characters and plot. They are both stereotypical “small town America” and supernatural. Here, I feel, characters and their struggle in those worlds are in the foreground. With Bradbury, lots of it is inwardly - meories, regrets or longing of past events - while with King there’s lots of outwardly action and suspense.
  • In the middle ground, e. g. Harry Potter, partly takes place in the known world, which has, however, lots of magical secrets and places.

On your question of “how”, it depends on why you chose those places, what purpose do they have?
If I want a place to “feel” Danish, I make sure, I put some gusting wind, smell of sea and solitude into it … without necessarily naming a place, to me, it feels like home immediatly :smiley: .
I wrote a ghost story in a lighthouse :). Names of characters place it on the map more, than anything else, since I never name the port it plays in :wink: .


Hi Megan!

I’m so glad you posted this as it totally relates to the series of books I am currently writing!

My world is set in the early 1800s in a long mountain ridge on the Kentucky/Tennessee boarder also boardering Virginia since that’s who the land was purchased from.

I have taken quite a few fictional liberties with the area as well as added supernatural elements. I do describe that mountain line the way it was for real, but add in different elements such as clans of different immigrents and an underworld. It’s working for me so far.


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I’m so glad this topic was brought up because I’ve been struggling with the same thing. I want to write a paranormal book set in the small town I grew up in but have fictional characters populate the story with references to the small towns very specific history. I was going to try and do what Charlaine Harris did for her Sookie Stackhouse series, but because this small towns history is very specific, it will be hard for me to reference or allude to it with a fictional perspective and it be an obvious error to reality. I guess as long as I keep Real Persons names and events in a past 100 years or older would be ok??