I've been to most of the places I write about - with one exception: Russia. But my wife taught there as part of an EU sponsored program(me) and made long-lasting friendships with a couple of young Russians. One of them read the Russian chapters as I wrote them and vetted them for all kinds of things : from the doorkeys to certain Russian hotels, to street desciptions, and most importantly - to the way Russians interact, the way to approach them, the credibility of dialogue, etc ...

Where I've been unable to do this I have done tons of research about a place and its people knowing that I'll probably only use a little of it... but the little that I do use is used with confidence ...

Haven't you read any stories or novels where the event/action took place where you lived and you didn't recognize it. Recently I read one of James Patterson's novels set in Maam Cross here in Connemara in the west of Ireland where I live these days. Well, you wouldn't recognize the place in the book. If you expected to visit here and were to look for the Maam Cross described in Patterson's book, you wouldn't find it.

What do you think? Does it matter if you don't get it right?

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I just finished the most recent in that series - man, he's a good writer! And the place feels very real.
Having something written set in Melbourne used to be so startling that the details sort of passed you by a bit in the excitement :)

Having said that Shane Maloney, in particular, sets his novels in the not so distant past - sort of 10 years or so ago, and he says that part of the reason he does that is that it's harder for the reader to remember which corner on Kingsway the BP service station really was, so people obsess slightly less about it.

I'd not expect to find the exact locations he mentions but he's got the general feel and flavour of Brunswick and the inner suburbs whilst he plays around slightly with specific streets. You know you're in Murray Whelan territory when you're in Sydney Road, but you'd never be able to exactly pinpoint where the electoral offices are supposed to be.

Most of the books I've read set in Melbourne use exactly that concept - references vaguely to a general area - that works for me, although I am reading something at the moment which described a motorcycle crash on the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road (which is about 15 minutes from me) and he's described the bend in the road pretty well perfectly. :)
John, Barbara, and Karen,

Thank you for your thoughts. John, I used to live in Toronto - before they tore it down and rebuilt it - lots of character (and characters) when I lived there. And, Karen, Australia is still on my list of places left to see ...

Slan, Pat.
I really do think it's essential to get your descriptions of a time and place accurate because, as was mentioned in an earlier topic, the place itself can become a character if it's done right. Accurate descriptions of place are essential for me both as a reader and as a writer, so I tend to set my stories in locations where I've lived, or at least visited frequently. That way I don't have to worry about the accuracy of my details. I know that's somewhat limiting, but I have lived all over the US and even lived three years in Canada when I was a child and a year in Italy as a young bride, so I do have quite a good choice of settings.

As for Patterson not getting it right, I wonder if he's become a bit sloppy now that he's so successful? I've noticed that increasingly he's using co-authors, and when I interviewed him about two years ago for a TV news piece, he said he was spending more and more time on his literacy program, which is really quite a notable effort. So I wonder if the slip in his accuracy is due more to a publisher that wants to keep a branded writer's line going even after that writer has moved on to other things? I wonder how much of the writing Patterson actually does himself these days?



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