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I'm currently... in this quite conflicting situation that I have put myself into.

I'm gonna try and explain everything.

For my story, I initially (what I have in mind right now) want the place settings to be real—by that, I mean they exist in real life. For instance, Jakarta, Seoul, Singapore, Bali, etc., because I believe by mentioning these real place names, it'd give reader some sort of feeling that they could immediately associate with that place.

But here's where the problem comes....

At the same time, the actual reality of how people in this particular city live, how the transport system works, and some other things, don't quite align with how I want them to be in my story. *My story's genre is not fantasy or sci-fi.

Here's an example.

I make my characters live in a city in Indonesia. I'm able to make them live in houses in a residential area, which is great since that's exactly how I want them to be. However, I also want to make them commute daily with subway and bus, which... doesn't make sense since, even if I take the city Jakarta, it currently only has one metro line and it isn't as busy as I portray it to be, compared to maybe Singapore or Tokyo or Seoul's metro system.

Therefore I tried to think of something else—change the place to one of those other cities, then! Yeah... well, but then the problem gets transferred to the first point of these characters, which is the fact that they live in houses. If I were to put them in Singapore or Seoul, for example, it doesn't quite make sense since most people there live in apartments (houses there are expensive as far as I know), and my characters aren't that rich to the point where they can afford a house in one of those cities.

I hope those example situations kind of give an understanding of what I'm facing right now.

So here are my questions...

  1. If I am to still use a real city name in my story, but I incorporate some things that are nonexistent (ex: taking place in Jakarta, but I add some fictional metro lines or bus stops, outdoor food courts, etc.), will it make sense to readers?

  2. Or would it be better to make my characters "fit" into the actual portrayal of the society in a particular real city? That is, I should change my characters' background.

  3. Or should I come up with fictional names for the cities? I have thought about this, actually, but then I cannot put focus on the feeling of some real places (ex: I've written some things down and make one of my characters live in Bali, which affects a lot of aspects of their life. Or is there something else that can be done for this?)

  4. Or are there other suggestions? I'm really in a confused state right now... and I hope to find some sort of enlightenment from here.

I hope my questions are understandable enough. Thank you so much!

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You can do it any way you like. Either way (except #2) you are going to take some form of Artistic license, and it is up to you weight pros and cons of every approach. Looks like you already have a good understanding of the options, and I can't suggest any distinct option #4.

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