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I've been writing a short story - and the setting is semi-important to it, it's not just a backdrop.

It's historical fiction of a sort - the 2000s is the era it's set in. Would this qualify as a period piece/historic fiction.

It does reference things like the Blair era of the UK, popular music of the 2000s like the Pussycat Dolls is mentioned, and references to Iraq War and Lynndie England, which tie it to then, one character drives a Ford Mondeo, which firmly places it in the 2000s when it was popular and "Mondeo Man" was a thing.

The setting is based on a real place, but I'm trying to skew it so that there's some major differences from real-world, but so far it's explained away as an alternate history.

I have a hand car wash that was formerly a derelict car sales yard where two of my characters meet for a deal - it's a money-laundering hotspot that's integral to part of the plot.

There ISN'T one at the location here in the West Midlands of England I've set it in. It's set in Tipton for one bit of the story which takes place in the Midlands.

But I've made this change so that it's slightly differing from real-world history.

I don't want to present the real Tipton in a bad light, but I need to show some changes from our history.

I'm still toying with a fictional setting of Victoria, named for the Queen Victoria, as a fictional district of one of Nottingham's suburbs - doesn't exist in real life, but is somewhere in the Rushcliffe area. How to ensure it fits in with real-world geography may be an issue.

Obviously the issue isn't copyright; town names etc. aren't copyrighted, and this bit is invented.

The two problems I have are ensuring realism as it's set in a realistic universe, and making sure everything fits.

I'm not quite sure how much artistic license to take with geography for this, without it being too unrealistic, but at the same time it's still a realistic work.

My basic problem is - I've developed the characters but not the setting.

I developed the characters first, setting last.

This is just a practice piece of writing to ease me into writing.

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  • What exactly is your question?
    – Ben
    Oct 10, 2023 at 6:36
  • If, as you say, this is a practice piece to ease you into writing, torturing yourself over how to be realistic is only going to hamper you. Just write, review, learn, write the next piece. Don't overthink.
    – Ben
    Oct 10, 2023 at 7:28
  • Yes, of course you can insert a fictional town into a recognisable region if you don't want to use a real place. Oct 10, 2023 at 8:06

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Stress Less:

I wouldn't worry too much in fiction about having a town with a different name, even in the same place, with similar details as a real town. Victor's Corner becomes Victoria. In the Movie Drop Dead Gorgeous, for example, the fictional town was clearly bases on Rosemount MN, but they named it Mount Rose. You're writing fiction, and there is broad leeway to fudge details.

But there are endless ways to mix things up a bit. Be evasive about the exact location. Change the names of all or most towns while still using the actual places as the model. As you suggested, you could add a small, clear difference to indicate it's a parallel/alternate timeline (but for the level of realism you're shooting for, I personally wouldn't go that way - style preference).

Or simply write it and don't even worry about how accurate it is. If you change your mind about using it, there's always editing.

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