Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: Storyworld


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper Basham

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper Basham

I just finished reading my first Amelia Peabody book and I have been completely captivated by the world Elizabeth Peters created. Now, I only picked it up as research for a work-in-progress of mine, but from the first chapter, I was drawn into the setting of Cairo and the arid environment in which Egyptologists and archeologists saturated themselves to uncover ancient relics.

Elizabeth Peters’ book was thick with a world I’d never experienced, but through her story, I traveled to Egypt, felt the busy-ness of Cairo’s streets, and even delved into an ancient mystery.

How did she help me travel there? And how do we make that happen in our stories?

One of my favorite things in writing (besides developing characters! I LOVE creating characters!!) is helping my readers get a sense of place in the storyworld they’ve entered.

I could really write three separate posts on this issue, one on each of my points, but I’ll try to sum it up 😊

  1. Know your setting
  2. Take the Organic Approach
  3. Move the senses

Know Your Setting

First things first, get to know your setting. Of course, this is for obvious reasons – if you don’t know your setting, how on earth are you going to describe it for others to experience?

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper BashamThere are different way to do this:

A. Traveling to the places
B. Massive research
C. The Author’s own imagination
D. Taking stories from others and fictionalizing them/or incorporating them into yours
E. All of the above (or a mixture of a few)

E would be the usual answer 😉

It takes a blend of experiences, knowledge, and imagination to bring a setting to life in the best ways. But what do we need to know to impact the creation of our settings?

Oh goodness, I don’t have enough space here to go into all the possible information, but here are a few questions to ask while shaping your storyworld.

What does the place look like? (duh, right?)

What’s the mood of the place? How does it feel? – for example, in Lord of the Rings, Mordor has a very different “sense” and weather to it than the Shire. Even the weather sets a tone for the setting in those two places.

What sort of people live here? Is it a big mix of cultures? Agrarian? A city? The smells, sounds, even the accents are going to be different, depending on what you choose.

What would be the typical work done in this setting? A fishing village by the sea is going to have a different style, flavor, and feeling than a upscale, city street. A rural area is going to give off a different vibe than a suburb – not only in what we see, but in what people wear, the way they talk to each other, and even the pace of life.

What cultures and traditions might influence the setting and the people?

What is the history of this place?
Has it been there a long time? Were there any significant historical events that took place there? Will these influence the setting of your story or the people within it?

How about the geography? Having an ocean nearby is going to create a different culture than being surrounded by mountains. In my book, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge, the culture of the Appalachian people – isolated within their mountains with limited options for making a living – are naturally prone to developing and drinking alcohol because the nature of their environment sets them up for it. So then, how will this ‘culture’ impact my story?

The creation of a world comes from a big pot of possibilities, and each author attempts to evoke a reader’s imagination in different ways.

Take the Organic Approach

Second (and as important as the first) - take an organic approach to revealing your setting.

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper Basham
This may seem a no-brainer for most people, but it’s definitely a shift in writing styles from the 1800s to now 😊 Charles Dickens could spend an entire page describing a cobblestone sidewalk, but readers nowadays are going to skim over that type of intensive detail.

It’s important to weave the setting into the action of the story, not use it as bookends to a page.

You do NOT have to tell everything you know about this setting in your book. In fact, please DON’T!! What you want to do is highlight the best parts of your setting to build a sense of place, but not bog down your readers with details. The best way to do this is weave the setting into the action of the story.

Master storyteller Jerry Jenkins gives these two examples:

London in the 1860s was a cold, damp, foggy city crisscrossed with cobblestone streets and pedestrians carefully dodging the droppings of steeds that pulled all manner of public conveyance. One such pedestrian was Lucy Knight, a beautiful, young, unattached woman in a hurry to get to Piccadilly Circus. An eligible bachelor had asked her to meet him there.

I get the sense of setting, don't you? It works, right?

But…Jenkins gives us an even BETTER way 😊

London’s West End, 1862

Lucy Knight mince-stepped around clumps of horse dung as she hurried toward Regent Street. Must not be late, she told herself. What would he think?

She carefully navigated the cobblestones as she crossed to hail a Hansom Cab – which she preferred for its low center of gravity and smooth turning. Lucy did not want to appear as if she’d been toseed about in a carriage, especially tonight.

“Not wearin’ a ring, I see,” the driver said as she boarded.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Nice lookin’ lady like yourself out alone after dark in the cold fog…”

“You needn’t worry about me, sir. I’m only going to the circus.”

“Picadilly, it is, Ma’am.”

Do we still get the same idea of the setting? Yes, but we ALSO have it incorporated in such a way that the story is moving forward AND we get a little character introduction along with a tinge of suspense for icing on the cake.

Now there is NOTHING wrong with beautiful prose and descriptions, but if they can mean something to the story and move it along, then that is how to bring your setting to life without it feeling like a list of details. And, if you’re going to give a longer, meaningful description, try to alternate it with some action or dialogue.

Move the Senses

Thirdly, don’t forget the five senses.

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper Basham
When describing your setting, find ways to incorporate various types of senses so that the reader can experience the environment too. Of course, there’s an emotional feeling the setting can create, but there’s also sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. We usually don’t use them all at one time in a description, but it’s fun and interesting to try and find different ways to use them throughout the story.

Here’s an example from my historical romance, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge (a descriptive paragraph set within the center of a chapter). Also, the mountains are an integral part of the story.

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper Basham
Laurel hesitated only a second longer before she headed out the door and down the steep mountain path toward the church schoolhouse. The trees were only beginning to shift into autumn colors, with hickory and beech displaying their golden glints first. She breathed in the earth’s fragrance, still fresh from morning rain, a mixture of wild rose and moss. Sunlight created a patchwork against the leafy trail as it slit through the mature forest and led the way down the mountain. Small glimpses of horizon showed between the trees and offered an endless view to uncharted lands of colleges and city streets and millions of other things she’d only seen through the pages of books.

The important thing about incorporating the senses is to keep it organic and relevant to the rest of the story.

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper Basham

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She’s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. You can connect with Pepper over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, her website, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.

What are some books you’ve felt have shown setting well? 
What places have you visited lately through books that you’ve never been to in real life?
Pepper has a copy of My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge for one commenter!

Building a Story World: Part Fact, Part Fiction

Building a Story World: Part Fact, Part Fiction

by Pam Hillman

Creating a story world is like being captivated by a stranger’s face through a rain-soaked window, or traveling through an unfamiliar countryside blanketed in heavy fog. There’s a hint of what’s on the other side of the glass or the haze, but you can’t see everything clearly. But because of that very thing, your imagination is given the freedom to paint the picture you most want to see in your mind.

If you could wipe the glass clean or burn away the fog, you might discover that the story world in question is part fact, part fiction.

This is true of the story world I created for my Natchez Trace Novel series set in the 1790s. Each story begins in Natchez-Under-the-Hill, a real place that dates back to the 1730s, touching on some of the aspects of the seedy wharf and making reference to actual streets that were laid out at the time of my series. Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, governor of the Natchez District, his future wife, Elizabeth Watts, and his secretary, Stephen Minor, make cameo appearances.

My characters travel along the Natchez Trace, stopping at a tavern called Harper’s Inn. This particular inn is fictional as I wanted it to be a very rough establishment and didn’t want to “cast aspersions” on any real establishment from the period. Mount Locust, on the other hand, which was a very respectable inn and is still standing to give visitors a look at what inns (also referred to as stands) of the day consisted of, is also mentioned multiple times throughout the series, giving anyone familiar with the area a yardstick by which to gauge where my characters are as they travel back and forth along the trace.
Building a Story World: Part Fact, Part Fiction

Breeze Hill Plantation, Magnolia Glen Plantation, and Cypress Creek are all fictional, but if pressed, I could take you twenty miles north of Natchez along the old trace, find a hill surrounded by rolling countryside, and claim it as the spot where Breeze Hill would have stood. The plantation home itself is based loosely on the floor plan and design of Linden Hall, part of which was constructed in 1785 and is located in Natchez proper to this day operating as Linden Hall B&B. Most of the other plantations, homes, and businesses sprinkled throughout the series are fictional.

Travel a few miles east of there and we’d find Magnolia Glen. Due west in the tract of land between the Natchez Trace and the Mississippi River and you’d find the virgin forest that Caleb O’Shea and his brothers logged in The Crossing at Cypress Creek, along with the rough-and-tumble little river town dubbed Cypress Creek.

So, we have a little bit of fact and a little bit of fiction.

Why use a real location at all? Readers are anchored in the story when an author uses a real town, country, or geographical location that they are vaguely familiar with to set the stage. It might be as broad as “the Mojave Desert,” or “London, 1845”. The exception, of course, is science fiction where the story world is created entirely from the author’s imagination.

With the reader anchored solidly in fact, the author can then add in a fictional ghost town or fort at the edge of the desert, a small millinery tucked on an unnamed side-street in London, an entire plantation along the Natchez Trace in 1791, and a river town along the Mississippi River in 1792.

Building a Story World: Part Fact, Part Fiction
All three ebooks in Pam's
Natchez Trace Novel series are on sale during May!
Links to each where you can select your favorite retailer:
The Promise of Breeze Hill - $1.99
The Road to Magnolia Glen - $5.99 
The Crossing at Cypress Creek $4.99

Building a Story World: Part Fact, Part FictionCBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

by Pam Hillman

Have you heard the joke… What are the three most important considerations in real estate?

Location, Location, Location

Except it’s no joke.

For anyone buying, selling, or homesteading land, it’s a very serious consideration. But one person’s great location might be another’s worst nightmare.

And a few months ago, at a family get-together I was able to record my mother’s cousins talking about their parents traveling from Arkansas to Mississippi and back again in the 1930-1940s in search of job opportunities, land, and places to settle down.

My niece is documenting our family history, and she’s already found ancestors from England, Scotland, and Ireland who migrated to America for one reason or another. 

Location, Location, Location

Just this week a friend of mine asked about the cost of building a house in our area. My son and daughter-in-law are looking around for a location to build a house in the rural area where we live. A retired couple I know recently sold their house and rented a much smaller home on a lake. Another recently widowed friend is looking to downsize.

Location, Location, Location

Each are looking for something different. A growing community with job opportunities, good schools, nice restaurants for a young family. Boating and fishing played a huge part in my friends who chose the lake house. Manageable living expenses drove my widowed friend’s decision.

So, it got me to thinking about my own dreams. My husband is a cattle rancher. We’re attached to the land. We run cattle, and I expect we’ll still be chasing cows wielding our walking sticks instead of cattle prods when we’re in our dotage. Hmmm, I wonder if I can get a 4x4 scooter for My Cowboy? Sorry, cow … uh … rabbit trail.

Location, Location, Location

As I thought about location down through the ages, what’s changed? Location is still important, but not always for the same reasons.

And what about my characters’ dreams and reasons for relocating?

They say write what you know, and so many of my books have to do with owning property, fighting over property, cattle, traveling toward property, abandoning property, saving the farm, etc. Buying land, saving land, or finding land just seems to be in my blood.

Location, Location, Location

In This Land is Our Land (The Homestead Brides Collection), my characters were desperate to get to land homesteaded by their father before he passed away. My characters in Shanghaied by the Bride (Oregon Trail Romance Collection) traipsed across America on the Oregon Trail in search of land and a new life. Slade and Mariah fought tooth and nail over the Lazy M in Claiming Mariah. Stealing Jake wasn’t about the land specifically, but part of the hero’s struggle was holding on to his father’s land and coal mine. Meeting in the Middle (With this Kiss Collection)…yep, cotton farming in Mississippi.

I’m all about that land.

I wrote a cool story set on a deserted island in the Caribbean. Castaway with the Cowboy. Even though it’s not available to readers right now, I love that story and plan to make it available again soon. Again, location. The location made the story. Without the location, it wouldn’t be that story. It would be something else.
Location, Location, Location

Historically, people moved for much the same reasons as they do now, but religious persecution was much higher on the list way back when than it seems to be today, at least for those moving within the borders of the USA. Religious persecution and a chance at a better life, which overwhelmingly translated to dreams of owning land, were two of the top reasons people have been on the move for centuries. 

None of my immediate family, friends, or acquaintances are relocating for something as life-threatening as religious persecution, but more for practical reasons that have to do with lifestyle choices and careful management. 

In The Evergreen Bride (12 Brides of Christmas), a secondary character’s father moves his family every few months. He’s a sharecropper, and he’s got the wanderlust bug bad. It wasn’t uncommon in the late 1800s, early 1900s for people to just pick up and go. I’ve heard stories of people (who may or may not have been kin to me, ahem) who’d just pick up and move their whole family in the middle of the night back in the 1930-40s. Weeks later, the family would find they’d settled in some old shack and were sharecropping somewhere else.

Location, Location, Location

The Natchez Trace Novel series deals with… you guessed it. Land. A brand new land for a displaced band of Irish brothers. Each of the brothers land in the Natchez District where they come alongside the women they love to save a plantation, a way of life. And they end up putting down permanent roots in the loamy soil along the banks of the Mississippi River.

So let’s discuss your thoughts regarding moving on….

Location, Location, LocationWhat is your (or your characters) ideal dream spot? A cabin in the woods? An artist’s flat above a bakery? A large sprawling estate? How would that dream translate to life in the 1800s? A townhouse in London? A clapboard home in a Shaker village, or a tepee on the plains with the Lakota or the Sioux? Or even a dugout in Kansas? Which of the photos above catch your fancy?

I’m content where I am. I expect to live and die on this hill. lol

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location
Pam again... still celebrating the release of The Road to Magnolia Glen. :)
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Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination

by Jan Drexler

In my June post, I talked about giving your readers a complete story experience by immersing them in your fictional world. We discussed how to make that world come alive for you, the writer. You can read that post here.

Today we’re going to take your story world a step further: how to convey what you see in your mind onto the page and into your reader’s imagination.

Because, really, isn’t that the where the magic of story-telling happens?

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination

We use the setting of each scene to convey emotion and increase our reader’s perception of our themes. Every word reveals details about the scene that provides an undercurrent to strengthen the action and dialogue. Many writers talk about using your setting as another character in the scene, but I think it goes further than that.

Yes, your characters interact with the setting, but the setting also creates a framework that helps to communicate your theme and subtexts more effectively than any other aspect of your story.

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination
To help illustrate what I’m talking about, I’m going to use some scenes from one of my early books, A Home for His Family, published by Love Inspired in September 2015.

The opening scene of the book takes place in a gulch outside of Deadwood, Dakota Territory, in 1877. Yup, that’s right. Just like in a Hopalong Cassidy story. It’s May, there’s a snowstorm coming, and it’s one of only three roads into town. The spring influx of miners is arriving, and the place is a chaotic mess.

The heroine, Sarah, and her Aunt Margaret have been traveling to Deadwood in a stagecoach and are anxious to get to the end of their journey. But there is a delay ahead of them on the trail and the stagecoach is stuck until traffic starts moving again.

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination
Deadwood, South Dakota

Here is Sarah’s first glimpse of the setting:

Sarah climbed out of the stagecoach, aching for a deep breath. With a cough, she changed her mind. The air reeked of dung and smoke in this narrow valley. She held her handkerchief to her nose and coughed again. Thick with fog, the canyon rang with the crack of whips from the bull train strung out on the half-frozen trail ahead. She pulled her shawl closer around her shoulders and shook one boot, but the mud clung like gumbo.

In describing this scene, I wanted to show the unexpected hardships Sarah was facing in her new adventure, but also her determination to follow through with her plans. So I let her leave the stagecoach to get some fresh air, but then she comes nose-to-nose with reality. The weather creates an oppressive layer of fog that obscures her vision and concentrates the odors of hundreds of animals and men confined in a narrow space.

There’s a subtext going on in this description, too. Sarah has come to Deadwood to bring the light of education to the children in the town and to the prostitutes who make up a significant number of the female population in 1877. A recurring theme in the story is that the prostitutes are trapped and confined in their lives with little hope for escape. The narrow gulch in this first scene is the reader’s – and Sarah’s – first hint of that unsavory reality.

This isn’t the only place I use the setting to convey that subtext. I scatter it throughout the story:

This cabin and a few others were perched on the rimrock above the mining camp, as if at the edge of a cesspool. Up here the sun was just lifting over the tops of the eastern mountains, while the mining camp below was still shrouded in pre-dawn darkness. 

* * * * *

The businesses crowded together between the hills rising behind them and the narrow mud hole that passed for a street. Nate slowed his pace as the storefronts turned from the saloons to a printing office. Next came a general store and a clothing store, with a tobacconist wedged in between. Across the street was Star and Bullock, a large hardware store that filled almost an entire block.

And in the middle of it all, just where the street took a steep slope up to a higher level on the hill, men worked a mining claim. Nate shook his head. In all his travels through the West, he had never seen anything quite like Deadwood.

But even amid the chaos of the mining town, Sarah’s spirit is focused on her goals. I use descriptions like this one to show Sarah’s hopeful courage:

Sarah took the bucket to the door and tossed the dirty water into the gutter. As she did every day, she looked past the crowded streets and crooked roofs of the neighboring buildings to the towering hills beyond. She let the bucket dangle and leaned against the door frame as she gazed at the white rocks at the top of Boot Hill. What would it be like to climb that mountain someday? 

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination
Deadwood from White Rocks

Another aspect of any story is contrast. In this story it is between chaos and order; sin and forgiveness; the wandering life and home.

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination

How can you convey the contrasts in your story? Choose your words carefully.

Yesterday's rain had made a miry mess of the streets. Horses walked in mud nearly up to their knees, while the drivers of the wagons shouted curses to keep their teams from stopping before they got to firmer ground.

Sarah crossed Lee Street on the wooden crosswalk and paused on the corner, looking up and down Main. Aunt Margaret had been right. The saloon girls crowded the board walks in front of the stores, their bright silk dresses and fancy plumed hats lining the street like a show of exotic tropical flowers. Not one “respectable” woman was in sight.

Finally, she caught sight of Maude’s red dress and purple shawl in a cluster of girls outside a peanut vendor next to The Big Horn Grocery on Upper Main. She hurried across the street on the wooden walk, soaking her kid shoes in the slime as the boards sank into the mud beneath the weight of the crowd doing the same. Thankfully, she climbed the stairs between Lower and Upper Main, out of the mud for a change.

Compare that to Nate observing Sarah’s first view of the land where he intends to establish his home:

He drove the team along a natural shelf on the side of the slope and then turned up. As they crested the rise, the sight that greeted him still took his breath away.

Green meadows stretched away in a wide swath at least a half mile across and twice that long, curving around the wooded slopes that crowded close to the open space. An eagle drifted above them against the clear blue sky.

Sarah whispered, “It’s perfect.”

Nate chirruped to the horses, driving them slowly through the knee-deep grass, heading for the grove of trees at the far edge. In his mind the mountain valley was dotted with horses—brown, black, white, gray—all grazing on the rich green grass that grew in a thick carpet everywhere he looked. Across the meadow, a meandering line of cottonwood trees followed a fold in the grass. That stream cutting through the land was the crowning touch.

He glanced at Sarah, still standing in the wagon bed, holding on to the seat between him and James. Her face was bright in the clear sunshine, the wind pulling loose hair from her bun. Her gaze went up to the tops of the hills surrounding them.

When she looked at him she smiled, and his heart swelled. Everywhere he looked he saw his future, waiting for him to reach out and grasp it. It was as if the past twelve years had never happened and he was just starting out, full of promise. 

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination

What is the biggest difference between these two scenes? It isn’t only the contrast between the crowded streets of Deadwood and the open spaciousness of Nate’s land.

In the description of the town, I used a lot of words with hard consonants: curses, crosswalk, corner, crowded, walk, silk, exotic, respectable, kid…along with some “dirty” words for good measure: mud, mess, soaking, slime, sank.

But in the description of Nate’s land? The opposite. I used soft consonants and “clean” words: green meadows, meandering, wide swath, curving around, wooded slopes, drifted, clear blue sky, swelled, full of promise.

Words are important – not only their meanings, but their sounds. The soft consonants convey the underlying theme present in all my books: home.

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination

Do my readers notice these details? Not consciously. But they play a role in the total reading experience.

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination

Now I’d love to hear your ideas. How do you use your settings to add depth to your stories? Or for readers, how do carefully written settings add to your reading experience?

"A Home for His Family" is now out of print, but the e-book is still available! One commenter will win a Kindle copy of their very own!

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's Imagination
The Rancher's Ready-Made Family 

Nate Colby came to the Dakota Territory to start over, not to look for a wife. He'll raise his orphaned nieces and nephew on his own, even if pretty schoolteacher Sarah MacFarland's help is a blessing. But Nate resists getting too close—Sarah deserves better than a man who only brings trouble to those around him. 

Sarah can't deny she cares for the children, but she can't let herself fall for Nate. Her childhood as an orphan taught her that opening her heart to love only ends in hurt. Yet helping this ready-made family set up their ranch only makes her long to be a part of it—whatever the risk.

Order your copy here!

Using Settings to Tap Your Reader's ImaginationJan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of (almost) thirty-six years and expanding family. While she writes Historical Romance with Amish characters, the romance of cowboys surrounds her, tugging more story ideas from her imagination than she can hope to write in one lifetime.

Welcome to My (Story) World!

by Jan Drexler

“How long does it take to write a book?” is a question that Louis L’Amour said people often asked him.

He thought the question was ridiculous.

In his introduction to “The Sackett Companion,” the great storyteller elaborated on his point. “If the questioner stopped to think, he or she would understand that it takes as long as is necessary.”

That started me thinking about my own writing: How long does it take me to write a book?

My daily word count – while important – doesn’t account for the hours I’ve spent developing characters and plot lines. It doesn’t touch the time I’ve spent letting the story wind its way through my head while I’ve washed dishes or cleaned the bathroom.

And it doesn’t account for the time I’ve spent building my story world.

How do I build a story world?

Welcome to My (Story) World!

There – that’s the secret.

If I want my readers to be drawn into my story so completely that they forget the outside world, then I need to be saturated in the background of my story world. 

How do I saturate myself in my story?

Two ways: Research and day-dreaming.

Let’s think about that for a minute. I spend a lot of time doing research. I’m a voracious reader. My bookcase full of research materials is only a slight glimmer of the depths of the information I dive into to create a story-world in my mind. 

Welcome to My (Story) World!

This extensive research – this living in our story world – isn’t something that only historical authors do. Contemporary and speculative writers need to know their own story world just as intimately!

We need to create a fictional world that welcomes the reader in as if they’re coming home to a place they’ve never been before. A place that resonates with the familiarity of a long-forgotten dream.

To communicate a world like that to our readers, we need to know every nuance of our setting’s history, terrain, animal life, plant life, sounds, and sights. We need to know the humidity (a hot day in Mississippi feels much different than a hot day in the western Dakota prairies!), the strength of the sunlight, and the bite of the wind.

We need to know the specifics of the region we’re writing about. The Kansas Tall Grass prairies are different from the Dakota Short Grass prairies. The Appalachian Mountains are a world away from the Canadian Rockies. Lake Superior, as vast as it is, has a completely different feel than the Atlantic Ocean.

What if you’ve never visited your story location? Talk to people who have been there. Ask specific questions, like, “What does rain feel like on a summer afternoon?”

Then we need to hone the fictional setting. Create roads, buildings, farms, and churches. I like to draw a map of my specific setting to use while I’m writing. When Katie is standing at the end of her farm lane looking east, what does she see? My crude map helps me keep that information consistent through an entire series.

Welcome to My (Story) World!

But the physical aspects of our story world are just the beginning. Each of our characters will add their own emotional perspective that will show our readers a particular view of their place in our story world.

If you didn’t read Winnie Griggs’ wonderful post on perspective last Friday, do it now!

Our readers will also bring their own experiences to the story, enriching the story world differently for each person.

Welcome to My (Story) World!

Part of being a writer is giving ourselves the time and space to read and dream. Live in your story world every chance you get. You have my permission!

What is your favorite method to develop your story world? Or what are some of your favorite story worlds? 

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of one of these double book re-releases of some of my Love Inspired books!

Welcome to My (Story) World!

Welcome to My (Story) World!
Jan Drexler writes historical fiction with Amish characters for Love Inspired Historical and Revell. When she isn’t writing, she spends much of her time satisfying her cross-stitch addiction or hiking and enjoying the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty-five years. Her writing companion is her Corgi, Thatcher, who makes life…interesting.

Twitter: @JanDrexler

Storyworld Begins Here!

Hi Everyone! Audra here.

The idea for writing my post today on the subject of setting hit me while I was enjoying a nice long weekend writing retreat in the quaint mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado. All the sights, sounds, smells, attractions and quirky little details in my fictional Paterra Springs are inspired by Estes Park. I find working on a new series a bit intimidating. I don't really know my characters well yet, much less the town they call home. Visiting Estes Park - about 45 minutes from my home - grounds me and helps me find the character in the town.

Now, you have to understand, I may write inspirational romance novels, but I also have a day job with our county extension office working with the 4-H program. This alone gives me untold fodder for the setting and characters of my books. But, it's February and February means my team along with the local agricultural community, host over 1,000 fourth graders over a 3 day span and introduce them to agriculture. So, long story short, I've been immersed in embryology. And as I was pulling together material for this post, I realized the parts of setting mesh well with the presentation we will be giving (over and over again) on hatching eggs. 

Please humor me as my day world and the world of my imagination collide :)

Storyworld Begins Here!
Courtesy of

·         The egg shell houses the entirety of the eggs component within it.

That would be your city limits. Think about how you’d like to portray the area where the events of your novel take place.  Think about how you would describe the town through the eyes of your characters. You don’t need to have all the details nailed down as you begin to write, but key locations should be decided and anchored so your hero doesn’t go to the bank on Main Street in Chapter 2 and then the bank moves to the mall in Chapter 7. I like to sketch out a map. It starts out simple – North, South, East, West – and fills in as I get a feel for the geography.

·         The egg has two membranes protecting against bacterial infection.

Think of this as your “Outer Limits” (remember that show?) or the edge of town. I think of this as the outsider (the bacteria) trying to find a way into the heart of the town, only in applying it to the setting, it’s good bacteria (think of beneficial bacteria found in yogurt). Do you have something going on outside the city limits? I do. The homestead that plays a big part in this 3-book series is on the edge of town since it was a ranch at one time. In the case of book 1, this is the property my heroine inherits. She’s always felt on the outside of life – inheriting this property doesn’t make her feel included in the town, either. She works her way through town (as all beneficial bacteria does) until she finds her heart’s desire.

Also, think about what the characters see when they look out the window. Are they looking out over vast fields? High rises? Coal yards? Water? This general aspect of your setting will establish the atmosphere of your story. Remember, whatever surrounds your central area will play a larger part than just a pretty picture. Your characters will work in it, travel through it, play, hide, etc. It must be a part of their lives; the reader must feel a part of it. It is a character that must be nurtured.

Storyworld Begins Here!

·         The Albumen (or egg white) is loaded with nutrients to help the chick develop.

People are the nutrients of life. Surround your character with friends, family, and yes, even foes. These characters not only help your main character on his or her journey to HEA, but they also make your character grow and keep the wheels of the town turning. What characters do for a living, enriches the town and surrounding environment.

If you have a rancher, give him a ranch to work on and describe his activities. A rancher who simply sits around all day mooning over love gone wrong is boring. Give him equipment to work on, fields to harvest, animals to care for, and all the while, he can be conjuring solutions to his problems in his mind, or with a fellow rancher.

Give your characters activities and hobbies. Are they active in the local church? Do they volunteer with the local 4-H organization? Do they nature hike and sketch? The actions and interests of your characters help establish the tone and atmosphere of your setting.

Let the nutrients of your town do their thing and do it well!

·         The Yolk is the central part of the egg, it’s the little powerhouse where all the important nutrients are stored.

Think local customs, history, legends. Think morals. What is the foundation your town or setting is built on? Who built it? How is it maintained? Charity auctions, fairs, holiday dances and other local events all add dimension to the dynamics of the setting. How about food? Is there a special restaurant that offers unique eats that your characters can’t wait to congregate around? Keep ethnic foods and customs in mind, too. No true setting is simply white bread.

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·         Chalazae (pronounced: cha·la·zee) are membranes twisted together that anchor the yolk to keep it from twisting in the egg.

So, you’ve sketched up a town, now, per story, where is the anchor? Where do people go to feel connected? Is it the local school? The church? The above-mentioned eatery with to-die-for daily specials? Think about some of your favorite television shows and take note of where dilemmas are shared; problems solved; accomplishments announced or celebrated. My family watches re-runs of Frazier. Where would the characters go if they couldn’t congregate at the coffee shop?  It’s your town, make the central landing place fun and unique.

There's so much more I could say about setting. Details are only limited by your imagination. Have fun with your town or desert or coast or wherever you plan to entertain your characters and your readers. Setting is just as much a character in your story as well, your characters, LOL!

*  *  *

But wait! I have a couple of fun surprise that I’d like to share with you!!

Storyworld Begins Here!

First, I’ve teamed up with 35 fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of inspirational contemporary romances to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you'll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering? ;D

You can win my novel Second Chance Ranch, plus books from authors like Candee Fick and Dan Walsh. 

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:

Good luck and enjoy!

Storyworld Begins Here!

Second, my debut Love Inspired novel, Rocky Mountain Hero has been packaged in a 2in1 set with fellow LI author, Lois Richer. Rumor has it, this collection has been offered to the bookclub exclusively - for now.

Leave a comment and I'll put your name in the cowboy hat and draw names for 3 copies. Isn't this a great cover?

Storyworld Begins Here!Audra Harders writes "rugged stories with heart" featuring fearless men who haven't a clue about relationships, rescued by ladies who think they have all the answers. In real life, she's married to her own patient hero, has two adult children, and is surrounded by everything conducive to writing about farming, ranching, and cowboys at her day job in the county Extension office in Boulder County, Colorado. She began writing right after her son was born and sold her first book to Love Inspired mere months before that same son graduated from high school. Surviving those years in between reminds her God does have her plan for her life...and that He has a tremendous sense of humor. You can visit Audra at
Twitter: @audraharders

Creating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper BashamBuilding a Story World: Part Fact, Part FictionLocation, Location, LocationUsing Settings to Tap Your Reader's ImaginationWelcome to My (Story) World!Storyworld Begins Here!

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