Wendy's favorite quotes

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."— Dr. Seuss

Saturday, November 23, 2013

When the Setting is Your Hometown.

My latest completed novel is a dark YA suspense called FIREBUG which takes place in my hometown. I chose to use my town as the setting for a couple reasons. First of all, there had been several cases of arsonists here over the last several years. One summer about three years ago, we got a call in the night because the haystacks on both sides of the farm were burning. It turns out that an arsonist was walking across country and setting fire to any stacks he ran into. Fortunately for us, he missed our stack, though many of our neighbors lost their supply of feed for their cattle.

A bonus to setting the story in your hometown is that people who live there often know things that an outsider might not. It’s easy to set the scene at a high school where I walked the halls as a student.
It surprises me that I've had several beta readers say that they would never write a story about their hometown—that the bad things that happen to the characters feels too close and too real when the setting is just down the road.

They also worry about offending people. If the story calls for a dirty cop or an unethical mayor, then they worry that the real mayor or police of the town will be bothered by a story written about them.

Here’s the part that intrigues me: Why does it make a difference if the crooked cop is in your town or another town? Whatever town the story is set in will have things made up about the people living there, be it bad or good. Does distance from the made-up corruption make it easier to handle?

Sometimes our stories require the setting to be somewhere far from where we live, but if your story COULD happen in a place like your town, would you set the story there? Why or why not? Does writing about your hometown bring things too close to home?


Danyelle Ferguson said...

I prefer to use settings I'm familiar with. That way I don't offend people by writing something wrong in their home town. :)

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I prefer to use settings I'm familiar with. That way I don't offend people by writing something wrong in their home town. :)

Maria Hoagland said...

I remember reading Rebecca Talley's The Upside of Down. I was really enjoying the book when I can across a unique detail about a church building that I'd seen on my travels through that town. That just made me love it even more! It made it even more real. Because I appreciated that as a reader, I have also used towns that I know for settings. I like being able to include details you can't get by Googling.

Lisa Swinton said...

There's nothing wrong with using your home town. If you don't someone else will.

People use mine (Arlington, VA is where I grew up) all the time for political thrillers and I don't get mad.

Move one. Use what you know. make up the rest.

Cheri Chesley said...

One of my projects is set in the town 30 miles north of us. We lived there for a couple of years over a decade ago but it's where we go now for church, shopping, or my girls' drama classes. I changed the name from Duncan to Dunlop because I prefer people not to think I'm writing about them, but everything else in the town is Duncan including its place on the map. If people use the clues in my writing they will know what town I'm talking about.

Incidentally I read a book this year set in Wichita Falls, TX, which is 35 miles south of us and we go there frequently for things Duncan isn't big enough to provide. Except the author either wanted a fictional representation of WF or they have never been their in their lives. There were so many painful inaccuracies that it bugged me for the whole book--which was otherwise quite good.