I recently changed where my story takes place. Not by much, it was in Herculaneum, a small town near me, and now it's in Crystal City, another small town near me, but one I know a lot better. I made this decision because of a research trip that I dragged my mom on today.
Normally my research trips are little jaunts to the library to peruse the folklore section. I pull out books of old fairytales from Ireland, Scotland, and other parts of the world. I flip through collections of folklore from various parts of the country, and read Norse, Greek, and Roman mythology. But today's research trip was a bit different. Today I went to see if the town where I planned to house my story fit the town I pictured. Granted, I've never been to that town, even though it's ten minutes away from my own. But I expected it to be more similar to my own town than different. Well.
Turned out Herky was a good bit smaller than my town and quite different. We didn't see any businesses, though we only went down a handful of streets. The high school looked awesome, way nicer than mine was (though mine was in NY not MO) and I love the Blackcats as a mascot. We started on one street, thought it would turn into another, and wound up back on the highway because, woops, you need to keep left on that fork to hit main street. Fun fact. So we went back around the highway and took Herky's main street around. Then it was closed for a while so we had to turn and go down another street and had a little adventure. A stranger on a riding mower waved at us. When we passed the police station my mom, ever graceful under pressure, suggested that if we're lost we go in and ask for directions; she also suggested that telling them I was writing a fantasy novel set in their town and needed to research might result in us being put into a jail cell. (Can you read the sarcasm when I say my mom is graceful under pressure? Cause she's really, really, really not the person you want with you in a crisis.) We found our way back onto the highway, don't worry. Then I stewed in the car while we drove around our town so my mom could find a novitiate I had seen on a map. While we were doing that the answer to the perplexing problem of the town not fitting the story became very very simple.
Just move the setting.
The town I had been picturing was in my backyard all along. I live outside it. I have a library card there. The town I'd been picturing was Festus-Crystal City (The Twin Cities), but I'd placed Dee and her family in Herky five years ago before I started picturing Dee's town. But when I do plot her summer it's right here in my own backyard.
Research trips don't always go as you planned, but sometimes you get something better out of them. I planned to get a better understanding of Herculaneum. I got that, but I also figured out where my book was meant to take place. So now Delia Darko and her family have moved to Crystal City, no U-hauls required. The library's awesome, there's a cupcakery, and a beautiful bridge. It's five minutes to walk into Festus and that library's pretty awesome too. I'll try to get in as much library writing time as I can in Festus and Crystal City because I write best at libraries. So if you happen to be a neighbor, come find me. I usually bring cookies. And I always wave back.