When you’re deciding on the setting for your novel, should you pick a real location or a fake one?
I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to this question, but there are certainly pros and cons to both sides.
Some people like using real place because they like writing what they know. They enjoy placing the story in the town where they grew up. They know readers who have been there will get a kick out of it, too, and that could boost local sales. Maybe there’s a city that fits the story perfectly. Maybe the story was created with a real place in mind.
Personally, I prefer to use fake locations. This gives me the freedom to create a world that suits my story. If I want a river flowing through town, boom, I have a river. If I need a cliff, I have a cliff. It means I don’t have to worry about getting facts wrong and annoying the people who live there. It means I can say negative things without angering people.
My first children's novel Dead Boy takes place in Blaze, Nevada—a fake town in a real state.
If you’re using a real location, it's smart to pick a place where you’ve lived, or at least visited. If you need to place your story in a place you’ve never visited, and you can’t go there as research, try to get someone who has lived there to beta read for you.
If you’re making up a location, you’ll need to develop it thoroughly. What is the climate? The population? The wildlife? The crime rate? It’s like creating a character. You need to know a lot, far more than your readers ever will.