Los Angeles University and other fake places.

1 Mar

Hello Friday! Though I still have some traces of nagging sickness, this week has been much more productive than last.

Right now I am contemplating how specific to be in my novel. I always lean towards realism. Unless I’m watching a Lifetime movie, I want things to be believable.  Those who know me are probably familiar with my dislike of all things fantasy, science fiction, and magic, and while I’ll never write a novel about gnomes battling witches three hundred years in the future, I wonder if this stunts my imagination a little.

In other words, it’s difficult for me to just make things up. I am distracted by made-up places in movies and books. Los Angeles University, for example. For anyone who is unaware, there is no LA-U. But fake restaurants, schools, etc. give the author the authority. No one can say, “That was such an inaccurate portrayal of Los Angeles University.”

Over the summer, I read a book that was set in Nantucket. My knowledge of Nantucket is from television, the Internet, and books, so as long as the author didn’t throw in skyscrapers, I trusted her. It sounded right to me. However, if the story had taken place in Santa Barbara, a place I lived for four years, I probably would have been a little more discerning.

When you have an intimate knowledge of something, which is more distracting, the fake or the real? And moreover (I just wanted to use that obnoxious word), do other proper nouns distract you? Diet Coke or diet soda?

Just curious. 🙂

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8 Responses to “Los Angeles University and other fake places.”

  1. Ninz March 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    I think describing things that people know brings clear, crisp visuals into place. When you say ‘diet coke’, I see the can. When you say ‘Los Angeles University’, I still see UCLA (bias much?), but probably less vividly as if you’d called the school out by name. All in all, I think that you bring an extra degree of honesty to writing when you write about things you know because you’ve experienced them in ways that maybe the reader has not.

    In fact, I recommend that you make a visit to LA under the guise of ‘research’. Any chance there’s a need to research champagne brunch locations on the westside? I could really help with that….

    • katieannmeyer March 5, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      I knew you would see the Diet Coke can. 🙂 Although, did you know that Diet Coke was not introduced until August of 1982? What a sad time it must have been before that…

  2. Robbie I. March 5, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    The details count a lot more in non-fiction, since you kinda have to be grounded in this mutual sense of reality. If someone wrote something about racing home after a heavy night of drinking just to get the freshest donuts at Bob’s on Polk Street, I’d be inclined to believe them, since I did those things. I know that particular detail about San Francisco. I think if you’re going to write about a real space, you need to know it intimately, or else you run the risk of taking your reader out of the moment. As for proper nouns, they should serve a purpose to your story, even if it is just to help establish details. Like, you could say your protagonist drinks soda everyday. But if she only drinks Coke, then that says a lot more about her than if she just chose any old sugary carbonated beverage.

    • katieannmeyer March 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      Agreed. If something doesn’t ring true, it distracts. Because the novel switches between the late 1950’s and the early 1980’s, this has become equal parts research and equal parts writing so that I can (hopefully) intimately know these time periods.

      And thanks Robbie, now I am craving donuts…

  3. Erin March 5, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    If you want to be vauge, I feel like you should make up your own town. We will know it’s your version of LA. Once you start in LA though, I think you have to be exact. It would take me out of the story to have inaccurate details.

    I see what you’re doing with LA U, but why? Murders and such can happen at UCLA. If you want complete control, get it further away from UCLA. Call it St. Mary’s or something.

    • katieannmeyer March 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Yeah, I don’t plan on actually using LA-U, but I have been debating between actual places and fictional ones. So far I have been using real places, but the challenge has been relying on research, interviews, etc. due to the late fifties and early eighties time periods. It’s hard to know how accurate it is.

  4. Tiffany March 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    I like the visual of Diet Coke instead of diet soda. Or better yet, just pretend they are from Oregon and call everything pop….. 🙂

    • katieannmeyer March 5, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

      Ha! I didn’t realize Oregon was a “pop” state. 🙂

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