Friday, September 5, 2014

Location, Location, Location by Jamie Hill


I like to set my books in real cities because I believe readers relate to places they know, live, or have visited. My cop series is set in Wichita, Kansas, which is a large enough city that they probably have plenty of crimes and good cops to solve them. Actually, around the time I was writing the first book, Family Secrets, the BTK killer had just resurfaced in Wichita and was soon apprehended. I added a mention of him, a "Did you work on that BTK case?" type of thing, for a touch of realism. But that's as far as I went with him. His crimes were horrible and touched the people of Wichita deeply. I didn't want to remind them too much.

http://amzn.com/B004478IN6 I asked several people from the Wichita area about neighborhoods, locations by the river, various aspects of the city that I could include. I tried to steer clear of actual addresses because I didn't want a reader saying, "That's my address in Wichita!" And that's the very reason I make up business names, Like Moe's Diner and Sister Theresa's Shelter. If I wanted to make Sister Theresa the bad guy (or nun, so to speak) in the end, I didn't want the real Sister Theresa saying, "Hey now!" So while the story is set in Wichita and a few of the main streets are mentioned, as well as neighborhoods, the rest is purely fictional. Recently a reader told me she was from Wichita and while I changed the names, there was indeed a diner and a shelter like the ones I wrote about, and she could picture them as she read.

Mission accomplished.



http://amzn.com/B00K5XAGY2My Witness Security series is set in Topeka, but the city won't play a major role. These people are in hiding and generally aren't going to be out doing the town. They'll also be traveling to other locations, in the first book they went to Chicago. Book two takes the characters to LA. Both towns I've visited and hopefully am able to capture their essence.






http://amzn.com/B00EOA5G3II took a different tactic with my Blame Game series, creating a fictional town for the characters to live in. I had a certain real town in mind and gave the fictional town of Marshall features of that place I knew well, but I had the freedom to jiggle them around as I desired. What I like about a fictional setting is as long as I'm consistent, I can create any details I want. No one can write me and say, "Excuse me, Fifth Street never intersects with Prospect Blvd." In my fictional town, maybe it does.




Find the first book in each of my series' here:

Family Secrets, A Cop in the Family: http://amzn.com/B004478IN6 
Pieces of the Past, Witness Security: http://amzn.com/B00K5XAGY2
Blame it on the Stars, The Blame Game: http://amzn.com/B00EOA5G3I

Jamie Hill




 

12 comments:

  1. Enjoyed doing this. I use both real places and fictional ones when I write. Pittsburgh and New York City come in frequently. I also have reinvented the town where I live many times, altering the village to make it what I want it to be. Love your series and your towns though I've never visited either.

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  2. Hi Jamie,
    Great post. I think using real places always adds to the story. People become more interested if they think they might know the places mentioned in the book It makes for realism.
    Margaret

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  3. Hi Jamie, I enjoyed your post. I also use real and imaginary places. An author who spoke at our local RWA meeting said if you're going to set a murder in a town/college/place, sometimes it's best to make it up. Although, like you said in a big city crimes happen all the time. I love reading books set in my city. It's fun to picture the places.

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  4. I've used real places and imaginary ones, too. I've never been to Kansas but would enjoy visiting sometime.

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  5. I use places I know too Jamie. I'll mix and match a bit, and change the names sometimes, but I've always been there. It makes visiting somewhere more interesting because I've always got the 'am I going to use this' question in my mind, and afterwards it's a fun way of revisiting.

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  7. I have used both real and imaginary. For the Bandit Creek books series, 30 of us Calgary authors created a fictional western town and everyone set their book there. The historical authors had the least to worry about as the town was so new, contemporary authors added and developed it adding on whatever they needed. For my own books I prefer to work with real places or places I've been. Good post.

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  8. Great post, Jamie! I typically use fictional names for my cities, even though they are patterned after real cities. I like that it gives me more freedom to design my own topography, as you pointed out, and no one can come back at me and insist that I got it all wrong.

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  9. Nice post. When writing historical fantasy, I use real historical towns, but since my stories take place in the middle ages, no one will argue with me on the details. Although I do use maps of ancient cities as a guide. For sci-fi, if it's on this planet, I often use known towns, but in the future, they might look different.

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  10. Thanks for stopping by everyone! Sounds like we're pretty much in agreement. While we like to use real cities, the freedom of making one up is enticing!

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  11. Very enjoyable post, Jamie. It was interesting to read the various responses as well. In my historicals, I've used both real and fictional places. Researching the details of those days of yore helps in building a setting that (hopefully) comes off as real as is possible.

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  12. Great post, Jamie. I tend to mix my fictional and real places up a bit. I often use real towns and places, but might add a fictional ranch (for example) set in a real town.

    Most of the places I write about are places I've visited. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time traveling around Australia when I was younger, so have lots of knowledge about the places I am going to write about. When possible, I revisit them to get a "feel" for what they're like now.

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