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I'm writing a book and want to set the story in an existing location, such as Manchester, England. Does that mean that I have to use an existing school from Manchester, or can I make the school up? Other places, such as restaurants, landmarks, and parks will be real.

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Put simply: You can make up whatever details you want. You can use what is there when you want to and then make things up. If nothing else, the names of schools change.

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It's fiction! Yes, you can make up anything you want (within reason - don't slander anyone or any location). My books take place in Chicago, and I do like to use real Chicago neighborhoods, streets, and landmarks in my books to add to the realism. I love to research local restaurants and use them in my books. But I never hesitate to create a fictional location in my books as needed. Have fun with it!

I always preface my novels by saying that this is a work of fiction and all locations and people are figments of my imagination.

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TeiganJo,

It is your book and it is your creation. You can add,create,imagine anything you want to. For your realistic imagination power you can write about real places or persons but also personify them to some other names.

In a book/novel, names can be fine but what is more important is the characters and roles every entity has and relate to.

  • It may even come in handy if you want to say something that a real person or "place" might take offence at. Changing the name gives you plausible deniability. And you will get less irate comments from people if you get some details wrong about the actual place. – Joe Jan 19 '16 at 23:35
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It's your book, but I'd suggest using real places for the majority. What if one of your readers were from that city, and become annoyed at inaccuracies?

However, you can still get away with making a school up, as long as it's not supposed to be a well-known school. I did this in my own novel. Plop it down on a nonexistent street and done give any landmarks, and voila! J.K. Rowling did this in Harry Potter, if you want examples you can read.

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Yes. You can make up places. Just make sure to indicate in the foreword that everything in your writing is purely a work of fiction, especially when you use the names of famous places. Otherwise, you might confuse readers - especially the young ones - if such a place exists.

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It's a good idea to invent a school name if your story presents the school in a bad light. For example, if you are writing a fictional story about someone being sexually abused in class, and the school officials do nothing about it, you are moving in dangerous territory. Regardless of any disclaimer at the start of your book, people may think the events are true.

Another potential problem with a real school is that you then need to be extra careful with character names. Say you create a hypocritical teacher, Mr Jones, or a mean student named Jen White, it might cause legal issues for you if, coincidentally, the names match real people, and your novel embarrasses them.

If your novel ever gets turned into a movie or TV series, lawyers will go through every name and check whether or not they are real. If they are, they often have to be changed so the production can get insurance.

You don't need to be too paranoid about it. There may be good reasons to use a real location—in which case, be careful what you say about it. Usually, though the best practice is to drop in some neutral references to real places to set the scene, and invent a plausible sounding school.

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