|Kansas City Skyline (Photo: Vanessa M Scott)|
Whether your story takes place in a generic suburb in a "make believe" town or in a well known city like New York City, London or Cairo, you have to make it believable.
If you choose a real world location, I find it best to be a city or place you have actually been to. Why? Because researching a location via the internet, other books or movies is not a substitute for the real thing. I can always tell when a writer has written a story that takes place in NYC based solely on what they have seen in the movies or on television. The story typically lacks the small details that bring a location to life and tends to focus on places that locals tend to avoid like Time Square (unless they work near there) and other famous tourist spots.
That is why I tend to write stories that take place in my hometown of Kansas City. Kansas City has a lot to offer when it came to range. There is downtown, midtown, and multiple suburbs, along with great hiking trails, scenic parks, and a river. The city offers unlimited possibilities for telling an authentic story for almost any plot.
As for a fictional location, you can get away with quite a bit more and if you want to attach it to the real world, all you have to do is mention that the nearest hospital/shopping center/concert venue is an hour or two away in Berlin/London/Portland.
Why is location so important?
Your story's setting and location help determine many factors that will ultimately shape your plot. Take my chosen location of Kansas City for example, my characters won't ever take the subway/train to work and will most likely have their own car because Kansas City is too spread out to walk everywhere. Kansas City has all four seasons (though this is becoming less true each year, I really miss a full blown spring and autumn) so I have to make sure that when I write an outdoor scene in January that my characters are dressed appropriately. I should also take into consideration local slang and diction when writing dialog. Imagine reading a story that takes place in the UK but the dialog is completely American, it doesn't make sense.
So, when choosing your story's location, make sure it is something you can make feel real. There is nothing more satisfying than a story that I can get completely lost in without being distracted by a setting that doesn't make sense for the story being told.
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