Using a Real Place for a Setting

Anyone who is familiar with my two mysery series knows that I don't use actual places for the settings, though in both cases they are similar to places that I know.

In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Rocky Bluff is a Southern California beach community between Ventura and Santa Barbara--and no, it is not Carpenteria. Rocky Bluff has it's own geography, street names and history. In many ways it's similar to two other beach towns, Ventura and Oxnard.

The action in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series usually happens in a fictional town called Bear Creek and the surrounding area. Sometimes the story centers on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation.
Bear Creek is similar to the town where I live except I've moved it into the mountains another 1000 feet in order to have "better" trees and more weather.

The indian reservation has many similarities to the Tule River Indian Reservation--but it's not exactly like it. I've given Porterville the name Dennison, but kept pretty much to what the nearby city looks like. I've also had Tempe visit Crescent City in Northern California and Santa Barbara and was true to both areas.

Now I'm writing the next Tempe adventure--and it's all taking place in Morro Bay, Los Osos and San Luis Obispo. I am familiar with all three places having stayed and visited those areas many times. However, there are many things I don't know and have had to research. Some I have been able to learn about from the Internet--but others I've had to ask friends for information.

 I'm fortunate that I'm a member of the Central Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime. I've been emailing members and asking them questions.

I'll probably have one of them take a look at it when I'm through to make sure I haven't made any big errors.

Oh, I still have fictional places--especially house where people live. 

The plot itself has been fun--but I do want to get where things happen right.



Amy Bennett said…
People ask me all the time if the Black Horse Campground and Bonney County, the setting for my mysteries, are real places. They aren't, although I do mention real-life surrounding towns and points of interests.

They also ask me if the characters (especially the victims) are based on real people. I take the fifth on that question!
Isn't it fun to do this? And yes, some of my characters have been based on real people, and some are composites of many people I've known.
Diana Sprain said…
For my dispatcher fiction, I use 'San Varlin' which is loosely based upon Vallejo, CA. In my Thaelia's World fantasy series, I re-named real cities. I too, used artistic license and changed geography to suit my needs. For example, Barera (Ireland) is connected to Cusbergh (Scotland). The entire British Island is larger than its real counterpart. I have done the same with historic people. My characters are based on actual persons but I don't use their real names. I've fudged facts to help with the story line.
Janet Greger said…
I created a fictional base community - La Bendita - for my medical thrillers, but have lots of action if Albuquerque. Sara frequently visit real restaurants in the area. When she travels to Bolivia and Cuba, I try to be meticulous in my depiction of actual scenes.
M.M. Gornell said…
Locations for me, probably after characters, are so important. Having just finished a book (now with an editor and hopefully out soon)in a completely made up location (though based on many similar desert spots)I think it will be interesting on what feedback I get. The Los Osos, San Luis Obispo area is a great location! Looking forward...

Very interesting post, Marilyn. It made me feel good to know I did similar things in my coming book. It'll be out in June. After reading the comments, it sounds like all of us write similarly, also very differently. I love getting advice from someone with your experience.
Thank you everyone, for your comments.
Write my thesis said…
Hey Marilyn, Great post which contains very useful information.
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Patricia grew up on a farm in significant Illinois so naturally needed to use the old farm in her first mystery. The second one Sylvia and Willie's story dissertation takes location close to and inside the little touristy gold mining metropolis of Oatman, Arizona. Patricia's 1/3 novel, a standalone suspense known as lifeless wrong, turned into released November 2014. Dead incorrect changed into a finalist in the thriller category for the Colorado e-book awards.
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