Relating Real and Imaginary Places

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Imaginary people fight for a real castle at a live roleplay event.
Imaginary people fight for a real castle at a live roleplay event.

The relationship between real and imaginary places is complicated. I didn’t appreciate this until after writing my recent post on using real places in fantasy stories, but there are many different ways for the two to relate. Here are a few I thought of, on a loose spectrum:

  • Real place features in fiction, like London in 28 Days Later.
  • Fictional place in the real world becomes a real place within a fiction, like when locations from the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean ride appeared in the film.
  • Real place inspires a very similar fictional place, like when Guy Gavriel Kay based Sarantium on Byzantium.
  • Real place inspires a less similar fictional place, like when 19th century Chicago became the inspiration for the moving city in my story ‘Urban Drift‘.
  • Fiction exists within an entirely fictional world – reality need not apply.
  • Fiction is enacted in a real place, like immersive theatre productions.
  • Fictional place features temporarily in reality with the aid of people’s imaginations, like the campsite that becomes the town of Anvil for Profound Decisions’ live roleplay events.
  • Fictional place features permanently in reality, like the fairytale palace at Disneyland.

What I found interesting pondering the options was that in some cases reality intrudes into fiction, and sometimes it’s the other way around. Fiction isn’t just something we escape into. Even in this one simple regard, the relationship is complicated, the two reflecting and shaping each other.

What have I missed, either great examples or different relationships between real and imaginary places? Which sorts do you like to create or visit? Share your thoughts in the comments, and if you’d like to escape to some of my imaginary places then you can get my short story collection Riding the Mainspring for free by signing up to my mailing list.