It’s been another hard week of editing Part Three of The Big Smoke, but I’ve managed to get through another 25% (or 13,600 words) and I’m feeling quietly confident I’ll have Part Three ready for my beta readers by my revised deadline of 12 December (fingers crossed!).
While reading Part Two, one of my beta readers asked me about my choice to have my two main characters, Seb and Ceara, come from fictional country towns in rural Queensland. My answer: I didn’t want to say they were from real country towns and then have people from those towns identify things that clearly didn’t fit with their town (from scenery to slang words). The only country town I know intimately enough to write about is Gatton, my home town. But I didn’t want either of my characters to come from there because I didn’t want readers (particularly readers who know me) to think the story was auto-biographical (because it isn’t).
That was my original rationale. But after my beta reader asked the question, I’ve been revisiting the decision in my mind. I know that I really enjoy books that have real settings, particularly if I’m familiar with those settings. But do I enjoy them more than books with imaginary settings? I’m not 100% decided, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t think it’s a huge factor for me. I mean, I love reading books set in Brisbane, my current home (like Nick Earls’ The Fix and Ian Wynne’s Gavel), but I also enjoy reading books with fictional-but-still-realistic settings (like Christopher Currie’s The Ottoman Motel).
I’m keen to hear your thoughts. Does it make a difference to your enjoyment of a book if the settings are real or imaginary? The Big Smoke is realistic fiction – does this make a difference? Meaning, are you happy to read about imaginary settings in fantasy but not realistic fiction? Or does genre not change your opinion?
Also, many of my settings are real (like the city of Brisbane, where most of the book takes place). Would you prefer settings to be consistently real or imaginary, or does that not matter to you? And finally, do you think it would be worth the extra research involved to have my main characters come from real country towns or do you think fictional-but-still-realistic settings are good enough?
I love hearing other readers’ and writers’ opinions on things like this, so please let me know what you think! 🙂