John Green Explains The Meaning Behind Real-Life Paper Towns

“Paper Towns” by John Green is a novel about a high schooler following clues to track down the girl he’s in love with. The story is fictitious -- and so are actual paper towns.

Before traveling to New York to premiere the “Paper Towns” trailer, Green filmed a video for his Vlogbrothers channel explaining the meaning behind paper towns.

According to the author, mapmakers make fictional entries in their maps as a way to tell if others are copying them. These entries can be towns, but they typically exist on a smaller scale.

“It’s usually not paper towns,” Green said in the video. “It’s usually, like, paper streets or paper bridges.”

Mapmakers aren’t the only ones who use this copyright trick. Green mentioned fake entries in encyclopedias and dictionaries, including a word made up by the New Oxford American Dictionary that other dictionaries started including as a real word.

This example of something fictional turning into something more reflects what Green hopes to achieve as an author.

“Obviously this is an appealing idea for a writer because I need to believe that made-up stories can really matter in the lives of real people,” he said.

With Green’s success, that’s not hard to believe at all.

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