Setting. Some people just make it up (think Lee Child and the Reacher novels that happen almost exclusively in a series of fictional small towns). For others, it’s an exotic bonus (say Hilary Davidson and her out-of-the-way locales). For me, it’s central to the story.
|Daley Center Plaza, The Picasso and City Hall|
Problem was, some of the details didn’t fit the story.
My story needed a somewhat grander version of Chinatown than is found on Chicago’s near south side. And a couple of scenes required churches in neighborhoods with very specific characteristics. That was messing with me. I could either mess with Chinatown or mess with a character that was vital to my book. After spending way too much time on Google earth looking at parishes churches all over Chicago’s northwest side, I realized I was also going to have to mess with the churches or else change the way another key character did things.
Then I had a kind of epiphany. I was writing fiction. That means I get to make stuff up.
So, instead of picking an existing Chicago parish and getting a mess of angry letters from locals telling me how my scene couldn’t possibly have happened at their church, I just made up a new one, dropped it into the neighborhood where I wanted it and bingo. Done. Might be kind of a big deal to somebody. I mean Chicago is a pretty Catholic town. Lots of people, you ask them where they’re from, they tell you what parish they grew up in. I suppose I could still get some angry letters saying there ain’t no such church there, but there you go.
What I decided is this. Even when you use a real setting, what you’re really writing about is a parallel universe. Most of it is the same, but the people in it are made up, the events are made up, there’s no reason some of the setting can’t be made up, too. When I’m writing about some feature of the city that actually exists, then yeah, I try to get that write. But if I gotta fuck with the place to make the story work, then I fuck away.
So what about the rest of you mopes, you got any thoughts on setting? How much fealty do you owe to it? What kind of liberties can you take?
And yeah Weddle, I know I’m late, but it’s still fuckin’ Wednesday, OK? Cut me some slack here.