Check out the prologue to "Alone In The Light" by clicking here

An excerpt from: Alone In The Light

Monday, May 7, 2018

Fact vs Fiction In A Fictional World...

When I first started my current job - I traveled. Like... a lot. I hit 39 of the lower states, 3 Canadian provinces, and Haiti... On top of that, I spent some time moving around with my short, decade-long, stint in the United States Army.

My point is - I got around.

As I read current fictions and stories, I wonder - do the writers go out and visit these places when they write about them? Do they rely on Google? Is it all from memory with a dash of made up bullshit to keep it fresh? OR... is it a combination of them all?  And on top of that - who the hell pays for it all??

Right now, I could write some pretty good descriptions of many of the places to which I've traveled in my life. Some with crystal-clear details... others with a general sense of familiarity. But - which is the better choice?

One of the things I love when I travel is seeing the places mentioned in books. Even if it's just the city name or railway stop. When I was reading "The Android's Dream" for the first time, I was traveling through the DC, Virginia area... where a lot of that story takes place. It was good timing on my part. When I first went through Ender's Game I happened to end up going through North Carolina... again, good timing. It made the books more... real? I don't know if real is the right word. But it gave the stories more presence in my actual life.

So - back to the questions at hand... Is it better to give real places and names even though you're going to change the actual details?  Should a character be from a REAL town - and I don't mean L.A. or New York where you have a LOT of city to hide in... but lets say a small town. A rural Indiana town to be more specific...?  Should Joe Anybody be from the real town of Fairland, Indiana? Or should Joe be from a fictional town BASED on a real town?  Is there a problem one way or the other?

A.J. Bass (the incredibly awesome person who decided to marry me) is finishing up her book. And it takes place in a real town in Indiana - Bloomington - where she and I spent a lot of time in our college years. It is, however, set in an alternate timeline where she's free to change the details as she sees fit. Which makes this part of her job a bit easier to deal with. If she doesn't like Oodles of Noodles on 3rd street, she can totally ignore it for the sake of it not having existed past 2020.

But in a book set in current, rural Indiana... should one go for the believable, yet fictional "Anytown, Indiana" or just say it's the specific place I know and love and be done with it??

I'm tending to lean towards using the real town with real landmarks... and for several reasons:

  1. 1: I don't have to come up with imaginary names and remember what they're SUPPOSED to be... Instead I could use "The Sherman" or "The Hobo Hut" - coincidentally, I've not eaten at EITHER of these places. 
  2. 2: I don't have to come up with fake street names
  3. 3: The things exist in the real world - people could see them and have the same feeling I had when driving through DC and listening to "Android's Dream."

The other side of the coin is...

  1. 1: I'm not limited to real places.... Pizza Haus can now be Bob's Magic Pizza Emporium if I wanted...
  2. 2: People could possibly glean a little too much personal information from it - says the guy writing under his own name on the internet...
  3. 3: People might take the changes I've made to real places and think they're ACTUALLY about the real places... same problem when using people as a base for your characters I've learned. 

Ah... le sigh.

I think I'll do a combination of the two. Real places, real town, real detail, but totally fictional stuff if and when a specific place is used. Take our local theater for example - I don't HAVE to say that the bathroom there is straight out of a horror movie... it's down in the basement just beyond the boiler room door which, I shit you not, has old GIANT hinges with HUGE bolts on it. It's cool. My son does NOT like walking by it.

So. Anyway... This rambling missive is done now. I think I'll just write and see what words fall out of my fingers and onto the keyboard.


  1. My only thing about using real places in the present is as soon as something changes, your work is dated.

    1. This is true... but that is also true of every "present tense" work...

      Star Trek is dated... but people still love it. ;-)