It's fun to create new worlds for your characters to inhabit, even if those worlds are just new communities. For my Storm Chaser series, I created a brand new place called Hurricane, a town of only a few hundred or so where some of my main characters live. In my unpublished Fire On Mist Creek I developed a town of a few thousand called--try to guess--Mist Creek, in northern Kentucky. Also unpublished is Red Is For Ick, and for that I spent some time developing a southern Indiana community of several thousand that features a theme park and a large lake.
(In Radio Red I set the story near the real-life town of Bellaire, Michigan, but never mind.)
There at the bottom of the cover, that's a lot like what the Bellaire area looks like.
In theory a great way to cheat and cut down on research is to set your story in a real place, but the problem with that is that you'd better get your details right. If your characters are running around New York City, you'd better know where Queens is in relation to the Bronx, and the best way to get from Long Island to Manhattan (I don't). If the tale is in your home town, you'll never hear the end from it if you have North Street on the south side. In The Notorious Ian Grant, I have some characters visit a real flower shop in my home town, Albion. The problem is, by the time the novel was published the shop had moved to a different location.
But the main character's never been to Albion, so I blame him.
So I often split the difference. My little town of Hurricane is totally made up, but it's in a real location: the intersection of county roads 150E and 600N in Noble County, a few miles from my home. When I've achieved Stephen King status, fans will flock to that location to see … four farm fields and a woods. And a hog farm in the distance.
I did the same thing with Coming Attractions. The story was inspired by a real-life drive-in movie theater, but I didn't want to use the real one. So I moved the location a few miles west, from Dekalb County into Noble County in northeast Indiana, so it would be closer to the story's home town, Hopewell.
Which was silly, because Hopewell doesn't exist. I could have just as easily put it all in Dekalb County.
The town was named after a Noble County road, which you might be surprised to learn is Hopewell Road--but I didn't end up putting it there, either. Instead I put it around halfway between two existing towns, Avilla and Kendallville, when I could have just used either of them, instead. Why did I not? Laziness. I didn't want to have to remember where everything was. The irony of that is that, in very general layout, Hopewell is just a copy of Kendallville, anyway, picked up and moved a few miles south. It's just smaller, and has a cool coffee shop on Main Street.
It could be any drive-in, it's just the one in a town that isn't there.
But see, that's the kind of adjustments you can make when you create your own community. You can move New York City a few miles down the coast and call it Gotham, or Metropolis, and suddenly it has Daily Planet buildings and stately Wayne Manors … and the Batmobile never seems to have trouble with crosstown traffic. You won't hear a thing about it in the story--it's all in the author's world building.
Speaking of world building: Coming Attractions is in the Storm Chaser universe, with Hopewell and Hurricane about ten miles from each other. I did that just for the heck of it--you wouldn't know it by reading either book. One Storm Chaser character does appear, very briefly, in Coming Attractions, but doesn't get named. (In the same way, characters from Storm Chaser and the unpublished Red Is For Ick appear together in my young adult novel, The No-Campfire Girls.)
Are crossovers necessary? Nope … just fun.
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