How to Design a Fictional Town or City
Many writers use actual towns and cities in their fiction, but there are some writers who opt to create their own towns and cities. Stephen King is known for the fictional Maine towns he creates in his fiction. There are various reasons a writer might choose to create a fictional town or city rather than use a real location. The primary reason may be because the content of the story might not be flattering, and the writer, out of respect for the real communities, may create a fictional location to set the story. Fictional settings also require less research. If you're writing about a real place, readers familiar with that town or city will be critical of details that aren't exactly right. Creating a fictional town or city allows you a wider range of flexibility. Learn how you can create a fictional town or city that will convince your readers they are visiting a real place.
Find a name for your town or city. Come up with a name that sounds like the name of a town or city. Check maps to ensure the town doesn't exist in the state where you will set the story. If it does, your readers will assume you're writing about the actual town. You can use the name of a real town, just locate the town in a state other than where it exists. Consider names for your fictional setting that are similar in sound or spelling to real places.
Draw a map of your town or city. It doesn't have to be detailed, but a map will help you write about your town or city as if it's real. You will know what happens if you head east on Main Street or west on Third Avenue. You will know where your residential sections are, where the dangerous part of town is and what businesses are in town. These are details that will help you bring your fictional setting to life for your readers.
Populate your fictional town with people that give the town character. Create the types of businesses you'd expect to find in a town of the same size and in the same part of the country as your fictional town. If your town is in a state like Wyoming, chances are good there will be a farm supply store, if not in your town, then at least a nearby town.
Base your fictional town or city on real places to help you gain your bearings and structure, but avoid using specific landmarks that will give away your model town or city. If a landmark is important to the plot of the story, create a similar fictional landmark.
Locate your fictional town or city near a recognizable real life city to help give your readers an anchor that will make your fictional town or city seem more real to them.
Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.