Is 'Paper Towns' Based On A True Story? A John Green Road Trip Inspired The Tale Behind The Must-See Mystery

In the new movie Paper Towns, Nat Wolff stars as Q, a high school kid with a crush on Margo, the girl next door, played by Cara Delevingne, who was his friend when they were little but now acts as if he doesn't exist. That is until one night when she recruits him for a wild excursion running around town, and then disappears the following morning. She leaves Q several clues as to her whereabouts, and the film follows his journey to find her. The story may sound like an extreme case of high school hijinks, but it definitely seems like it could be based in reality. So, is Paper Towns based on a true story?

As much as it might feel like a work of non-fiction, Paper Towns is totally fake. As many might know, it's actually based on a novel by John Green, who is quite possibly the hottest name in YA fiction right now after last year's film adaptation of his novel The Fault in Our Stars absolutely killed it at the box office. But even though the story and characters presented in Paper Towns are totally made up, parts of the film were, in fact, inspired by real life. It turns out that the title of the film is a real-life phenomenon having to do with map copyright issues, which, trust me, is a lot more interesting than it sounds.

Paper towns are places that don't really exist, but are placed on a map to keep other map makers from copying their work. That way, if a company makes a map and another company copies said map exactly and calls it their own, the original creator can point to a paper town they invented appearing on both maps as proof that the latter party plagiarized their work. Still with me? Green first heard of the concept while driving through South Dakota with his girlfriend, the author told PopSugar. After passing through an area on the map that didn't seem to be there, he stopped somewhere to ask where the town was, only to find out that it didn't exist. This experience served as his introduction to paper towns, and set him on the path to writing the bestselling novel.

But the connections between real paper towns and the movie run deeper than that. The climactic paper town featured in the film, Algoe, NY, is actually one of the most famous of these fake places. Algoe was invented as a paper town by cartographers Otto G. Lindberg and Ernest Alpers in the 1930s, only to then have it show up on a map by Rand McNally. Lindberg and Alpers sued, but Rand McNally claimed that Algoe was real because when they went to the location they found an Algoe General Store. So why was there a store named after a fake town in the same spot where the fake town was supposed to be? Because the founders of the store saw Algoe on Lindberg and Alpers' map, assumed it was real, and built there store there to represent the town.

And that's what inspired Paper Towns. See, told you it was interesting.

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