close

Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: setting

home

Seekerville: The Journey Continues

seekerville.blogspot.com

How to Create a Strong Setting to Balance Unforgettable Characters

 

How to Create a Strong Setting to Balance Unforgettable Characters

Mary's post on Monday was wonderful. She started with an amazing opening about women running for escape, women running for their lives, for freedom, for a chance to get out from under the cruelty of an evil stepfather.

She drew me in instantly.

So I'm going to talk about setting today, a setting strong enough to embrace and support those unforgettable characters we work so hard to create.

I'm choosing contemporary settings... it's different for a historical because the setting is unique to the time. Current day settings are beset with modernisms and that changes things, something I've discovered as I'm prepping my early Love Inspireds for the indie market.

From "Rebuilding Her Life", book one of my final Love Inspired series "Kendrick Creek"

How to Create a Strong Setting to Balance Unforgettable Characters

Hello, childhood.

Jess Bristol sucked in a breath as she steered her rental car along mountain roads she hadn’t seen in years. Curve upon curve, the lush Appalachian forest floated by on her right while a winter valley stretched wide on her left. Beautiful. Bucolic. Pastoral.

But when she hugged a bend that took her further down the mountain, the Manhattan trauma doctor's breathing went tight for a different reason. The aftermath of the recent forest fire surrounded her. While some things had been completely consumed by the raging inferno, others had been randomly skipped over, leaving a tree here, bushes there. But not much had escaped the fire’s wrath along this stretch, and the sleepy mountain town below—her hometown—had taken a nasty hit.

The late December fire had started high in the hills and swept down, fed by a strong east wind. Around her, the remnants of that two-day blaze lay haphazard and dark against the fresh falling snow.

Burned trees and ash peppered what had been a pristine landscape. She’d seen the news reports and her mother had sent several pictures of the recent disaster that had besieged the area. But the photos hadn’t done it justice.

Devastation sprawled to her east, west and south. The fire’s path had traveled straight for Kendrick Creek, the Tennessee mountain town she’d called home for over two decades. From here she could see the swath of wreckage along this edge of the fire. It hadn’t burned the whole town, but it had ruined enough. In a little place like Kendrick Creek, it didn’t take much to have a huge effect.

This was this opening to the story.... You know Jess is a Manhattan trauma doctor, you know she was raised in a little Appalachian town and that she's coming home...

But it's the setting that takes the day and sets the stage. Destruction. Ruination. Remnants of a wind-fed fire that left homes, businesses, churches and Christmas decorations in rubble...

That opening setting has set a backdrop for the angst of the story. Whatever else happens, the reader knows that it occurs in the backdrop of disaster... leaving the story and the series ripe for redemption and renovation. 

BOOK TWO: The Path Not Taken:

How to Create a Strong Setting to Balance Unforgettable Characters

I've seen folks say "never start a story with weather..." I expect they mean rote weather, you know, this kind of thing.... "It was a cold, wet, rainy day. Gayla searched for her umbrella. She needed it. Otherwise she'd show up at work looking like a wet poodle because her hair always crinkled more in high humidity. 

The car.

She'd left it in the car which meant that she needed to run a block down the road to get to the umbrella. And the car."

So let's re-do this opening to make the setting pop:

Rain.

Not just any rain.

Stinking, pouring, drenching, pooling rain and when one lived in a busy city where folks selfishly parked their over-priced cars over the lines so normal people had to park a block away, a storm wasn't just an inconvenience. It was an entity.

Sprawling leafless trees bent in the wind. They weren't dancing. There was nothing Joyce Kilmer-poetic about these trees. They were angry. Pure and simple. Thrashing their arms to protest their lack of protection.

Her, too.

Her umbrella was right where she'd left it last week, on the back seat of the car. The car she'd parked over a block away. The umbrella was laying quite comfortably on the back seat. Safe. Warm. Dry.

The opposite of what she was about to be.

She had no choice but to make a run for it.

The wind tunneled, total Chicago, lashing her, soaking her. Strong enough it probably would have turned that cheapo umbrella inside out and then it would have joined the hundreds of other useless umbrellas dotting Chi-town's metro garbage pails every April.

She missed the green light at the corner and had to wait, chin tucked, eyes down as the north-south traffic hurried toward its destinations. 

The light turned.

She knew better. She really did. She'd been working in the city for over three years, determined to make a name for herself, so she knew to look left then right before stepping down.

Her bad. And his, the guy who hurried through an almost red light, late for whatever.

The wall of water didn't just splash her.

It bathed her. Top to bottom. Stem to stern. Even inside the  ugly boots. And she had absolutely no choice but to keep on going.

And after biting back some really bad words, that's exactly what she did.

So this is how I see setting. I see it as an integrated part of the scene, not something separate or generally poetic and descriptive. More like another character, action-packed, boring or soothing, the setting creates an imminent feeling in the reader.

Debby Giusti uses settings in her suspense novels and she does it beautifully. Whether it's the alleys of a city or the thickly forested hills, when Debby sets a scene, you feel the threat approaching, even if the scene is light... you know the shadows loom.

Setting is huge for reader satisfaction. Think of it as another character, a changing one, and don't over-sell it... make it work with and for the scene either as a villain...

Or a friend!

BOOK THREE: "A Foster Mother's Promise"

How to Create a Strong Setting to Balance Unforgettable Characters


How to Create a Strong Setting to Balance Unforgettable Characters

Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is busily writing mysteries in her very snowy, cold Western New York home. She is enjoying the peace of winter because warmth brings work and Ruthy runs/owns a pumpkin farm with her husband... and that makes the quiet of winter a lovely thing! She loves to chat with readers and writers. Email her at loganherne@gmail.com, swing by her Facebook page (although she is generally annoyed at social media, but she does love to share cookies, cakes and Ruthyisms!!!) or her website at ruthloganherne.com 


Leave a comment below and Ruthy will tuck your name into a really cute Southern style hat for a Support Your Favorite Author $15.00 Amazon card.... so you can grab one or two books you've been longing for and just couldn't quite let yourself do it!  

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)

 

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)


Settings is the theme of this post, part two to my post from last month. You can read that post HERE if you missed it or need a reminder.

This month we're going to talk about giving our settings life - providing the details and accuracy that makes our settings real.

How can we give our settings life?

Think of all the details that go into bringing your reader into the setting of your story. The five senses – taste, touch, smell, sound, sight – are your tools, but how can you use those tools to make your setting unique? And not only unique, but accurate?

Research.

The best kind of research is what I call “feet on the ground.” This is where you visit the location of your story.

Let’s use my story, “A Home for His Family,” as an example. The setting is 1876 Deadwood, Dakota Territory. The crest of the gold rush.

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)

For my feet on the ground research, I traveled to Deadwood (not a long trip for me – the town is about an hour away from where we live) and took advantage of the historical walking tour. Definitely worth my time! I also spent an hour (or two, or three) in a museum dedicated to the town’s early history – the same years of my story setting. Seeing some of the clothing, furniture, pens, and other things used at that time (including the hypodermic needles the prostitutes used for their drugs) from that era helped me add authentic details to my story.

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)

 I also spent time walking through the cemetery and reading inscriptions on the grave markers. So many of the early graves were for Civil War veterans who came to Deadwood ten years after the war ended to find their fortunes – a detail that became part of my hero’s backstory.

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)
Many of the old stones have been restored by the Deadwood Historical Society

I also read books. I read an autobiography of a woman who had been a young girl in Deadwood at the time of my story (her father had been the territorial judge.) I met people like Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock through her eyes. I also read first-hand accounts of figures who were part of the gold rush history of Deadwood. Source materials like these are invaluable when you’re trying to cement the setting (time and space) in your imagination.

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)

I also found photographs of the town from those early years, crude maps of mining claims (including a few in the middle of Main Street,) and descriptions of life in a mining camp.

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)

All of this research was to give my readers an authentic representation of the setting.


What if I'm writing a contemporary novel?

Many of the same research techniques apply, except that the source materials will be current rather than historical! Again, feet on the ground research is the best.

But if you can’t travel to your location, the internet is your friend. Most towns have a website or Facebook page. For information about the inner workings and issues facing small towns in the Black Hills (for my WIP, a cozy mystery in a contemporary setting,) I subscribed to a local small town paper.

How do I start?

 - When I’m exploring a new-to-me setting, I go to Google Maps first. That helps me set the location in its geography and proximity to other towns. This helps for imaginary towns, too. If my setting is in rural northern Indiana, I focus on the area (terrain, roads, highways, etc.) and start building my imaginary location from that.

 - If I’m writing an historical, my next step is to look for the location in a map from the same time period as my story (or as close as I can get.) My favorite source for this is Historic Mapworks.

 - Then I start delving deep into the plethora of research materials available through the library or online. Our own Erica Vetsch finds some of the greatest books and sources for researching the Regency Era and the Napoleonic Wars. I love perusing local used bookstores and tourist areas for Black Hills history (the tourist mecca, Wall Drug, has a fabulous bookstore!)

 - I never discount using fiction for my research – if the other author has done his or her research well, I can glean a lot from their knowledge as I read their book.

 - I talk to people. When I go to a museum, I try to strike up a conversation with a docent. They are usually volunteering their time as docents because they LOVE their subject and are very knowledgeable. A word of warning, though – although most docents are this way, I have run into a few who know nothing about their subject. Some people volunteer for other reasons. So I try to have a working knowledge of my subject before I have that conversation.

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)
Some friendly (and knowledgeable) docents at the Somerset Historical Center in Somerset County, PA
 

Are you ready to talk about the setting of your novel? How did you choose it? How did you do your research?

Let’s talk!

And just for fun, the Deadwood story I mentioned in this post is being re-released in a two-for-one from Love Inspired in January! One commenter will win a copy - sent after its publication, of course. Meanwhile, you can preorder HERE.

About the stories:

Giving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)
A ready-made family

The Texan's Inherited Family by Noelle Marchand

Busy Texas farmer Quinn Tucker is used to raising crops, not children. So when four nieces and nephews are left in his care, it's not long before he realizes they need a mother. But his search for a wife leads to the least likely woman for illiterate Quinn—schoolmarm Helen McKenna. Could a marriage in name only blossom into something more?

A Home for His Family by Jan Drexler

Nate Colby came to the Dakota Territory to start over, not to look for a wife. He'll raise his orphaned nieces and nephew without schoolteacher Sarah MacFarland's help. Sarah deserves better than a man who only brings trouble to those around him. Yet helping this ready-made family set up their ranch only makes Sarah long to be a part of it—whatever the risk.

Deciding What Setting to Use, Part 1

Deciding What Setting to Use, Part 1


Where does your story take place? Is the setting of your story real, imaginary, or somewhere in between?

If you aren't sure, maybe I can help. Here is my take on the different kinds of settings you can use for your novel.  

1. Real Settings 

There is a distinct advantage in using a real setting for your story. You can go there. Walk the streets. Smell the wind. Listen to the traffic – or non-traffic – noises. You can stop by the local diner and try the daily special. Or if traveling there is impossible, you can do a virtual visit using Google Earth or Google maps street view.

But the disadvantage to using a real place as a setting for your fictional story is that your perception of the area might not match up with someone who actually lives there. Every place is someone’s hometown, and you run the risk of getting some little detail wrong.

It’s a little easier if you’re writing an historical story, since you don’t run as big of a risk of a reader having intimate knowledge of the setting you’re using – especially if your story takes place in an earlier century.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I got a letter from a reader after I published my first novel, The Prodigal Son Returns. I had set a few of the scenes in the real town of Goshen, Indiana, in the 1930’s, using my memories from the 1960’s and my dad’s descriptions of his memories of the town from his childhood to add details. But there is always the fear that the descriptions don’t ring true – until I received that note saying that the town I described was just the way this reader remembered it, down to the location of the barber shop on Lincoln Avenue.

Whew!


2. Imaginary Settings 

The advantage to creating an imaginary setting completely out of your head is that it’s yours. You get to decide what the weather is like, who lives in this fictional place, and what happens there.

The disadvantage with a setting like this is that you have to create an entire story-world out of your imagination (which is the main attraction for some authors!) Tolkien did this with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was so successful in bringing the reader into his story-world that millions of people felt like Middle Earth was a real place – even before the movies were made!

I’ve never written a setting like this. These are usually reserved for science fiction or fantasy stories, but it’s intriguing, isn’t it? To create that perfect world where imaginary beings live and breathe? I might have to try it sometime.


3. Somewhere in between 

I have to confess that this is my favorite setting for my stories. This where you take an imaginary setting – a town, ranch, neighborhood – and nestle it into an existing real place.

The advantages of this kind of setting are huge. For instance, in my current Work in Progress, a contemporary cozy mystery, my setting is in the Black Hills. I’ve created my fictional town of Paragon and placed it in a particular spot. Of course, there isn’t a town there. Or even a crossroads. But it is in the middle of the Black Hills National Forest, which satisfies the requirements for the stories in the series.

However, the surrounding area is real. So, my characters can have lunch at Armadillos (my favorite ice cream shop,) or drive into Rapid City to buy groceries at Sam’s Club. And since I live in this real setting, I can be sure that my descriptions of the climate, traffic, the change in the atmosphere when the tourists arrive on Memorial Day weekend, and the EVENT that is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally are all accurate. When Emma walks out of the Sweetbrier Inn on a late April morning and encounters snow – that’s reality. In a fictional setting.


Another way to use this kind of setting is to set an historical story in a real place. My series, The Amish of Weaver’s Creek, takes place in the very real Amish settlement of Holmes County, Ohio. One reader who had grown up there told me that he felt like he was visiting his childhood home because my descriptions were so accurate.

Deciding What Setting to Use, Part 1
A creek in Holmes County, Ohio - the inspiration for Weaver's Creek
 
But Weaver’s Creek and the Amish community surrounding it in a corner of Holmes County is all fictional. I set it a certain distance from Millersburg, Berlin, and Farmerstown – all real towns of the area – and used historical maps to make my descriptions of those towns fit my story setting of the 1860’s. Then I created my own map of the Weaver's Creek area - the farms, the houses, the roads, and where each family lived. The result is a small area my readers can become familiar with inside of a larger area they can visit. 


How does that happen? How do our minds gently erase a portion of a map and overlay an imaginary community where none really exists?

How can we all know the Hundred Acre Woods, Hogwarts Castle, Plum Creek, or Deep Valley like they are in our back yards - when we've never actually been there...

Deciding What Setting to Use, Part 1
Betsy's home in Deep Valley

...and if we are able to visit in person, we feel like we've come home.

Deciding What Setting to Use, Part 1
Laura's Plum Creek

That's one of the intriguing things about reading and the imagination, isn't it?

Next month, I'll be talking about the kind of research that a writer can do to make their settings take on that feeling of reality.

Meanwhile, let's talk about settings. What book setting would you love to visit if you could?

The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James

We're so glad to welcome back one of the Seekerville Blog's founders today! Cara Lynn James, take it away...


The Importance of Setting


It’s great to return to Seekerville! I’ve been away too long. Life happened and I didn’t write too much during the last few years, but now I’m back in the swing of things.


I want to talk about setting today because it’s such a fun element for me to read and write about. It helps create a picture in my mind where the characters can live and breathe and act out their parts. I can travel to places I’ve never been before, learn about the culture, cuisine and customs.

Simply put, setting is about time and place. It’s a crucial component of every story, but it’s sometimes overlooked or at least brushed aside because characters and plot seem more important. It’s often the forgotten stepchild. But all three elements are necessary, and work together to create a wonderful book. 



The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James



I write stories set in New England because I grew up there and spent a large portion of my life in Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I’m familiar with the differences among those states—and there are big differences, although they’re situated close together. 
The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James

It’s easier to write about places you’re familiar with, but sometimes it’s fun to research other locations and learn new things. And if you’re lucky, maybe you can take a research trip and have some fun.

I’ve listed below some of the elements we should be aware of when we consider where to set our stories.

There are certain fundamental components that make up the setting:

Locale. Obviously, this is where the novel takes place. It’s in a particular country, state, city or town, neighborhood, street, house or apartment. A book set in New York City will be different in many ways from one set in the rural town of Greenville, Florida where my late husband grew up. It’s also the childhood home of singer Ray Charles and it has a population of 843. Can you picture a story set there? It won’t be like a town in Washington state or Ohio, although they’ll all have certain commonalities. 

Time of the year.This includes the seasons and the holidays. I live in northwest Florida and to me the seasons blend together. That’s because the weather doesn’t change much during the entire year, although some people may disagree. When I lived in Vermont, I found the seasons to be more distinctive. Cold, snowy winters and warm summers separated by spring called mud season and crisp, dry autumns. 

Even holidays are celebrated in unique ways in different places. Washington, D.C. celebrates Memorial Day with concerts and spectacular fireworks displays while Derby, Vermont has a tiny parade with local politicians and fire trucks, a barbeque on the green with booths selling fried dough and cotton candy. City verses rural. But cities differ from each other depending on location just as rural areas differ. A Midwestern town will have a flavor unlike a town in southern California or Mississippi. 

Time of day. Scenes occur at a specific hour of the day. Dusk and dawn have their own look and feel and so does mid-day when the sun is bright and hot. 

The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James


Mood and atmosphere. Like us, our characters respond to weather, temperature and lighting and those variables influence the characters’ moods. Sitting by a crackling fire with snow falling outside evokes a much different mood than a hike in a hot, dry desert. The air feels different than the humid sea air of the Gulf Coast. Extremes in heat and cold effect how we feel and can make us comfortable or uncomfortable, happy or sad. That can also influences our character’s disposition.

The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James

Climate. Knowing the geography, and topography, ocean currents, prevailing winds, air masses etc. are important because they all influence the climate. If you’re setting your story in a real place, make sure you understand the climate. Tornadoes are common all over the country, but they’re especially prevalent in the mid-west. We think of California earthquakes and hurricanes along the coasts and blizzards up north. 


The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James


Geography. A mountain, a river, a forest can provide obstacles to the characters that they have to overcome. Think also of the soil, plants and wild animals they may encounter. What are the effects of people using the land? Are they strip mining, clear cutting the woods, grazing cows? What do others in the community think about that?

Eras of historical importance. Wars, important events and important people who lived during that era can be linked to the plot. For example, Susan B. Anthony can make an appearance in the story or even become an important part of it. Popular time periods might include the Civil War, World War Two, southern slavery, pioneers moving west in a wagon train.

Social/political/cultural environment. These aspects of a character’s environment contribute to her beliefs and the actions that follow. Her faith and religion may be affirmed by the people in the town, or they may be ridiculed. How society treats her faith will influence her feelings and her actions in the book.

Ancestral influences. The culture and values of immigrant groups will add local color to a town which sometimes lasts for a generation or two. I came from Hamden, Connecticut, a town with a large population of elderly Italian immigrants and their descendants. We had the best pizza in the country! On school days I’d stop on my way home for lunch at a garage bakery and buy the most delicious Italian bread you can ever imagine. Even though my English/Irish American mother couldn’t make Italian food, my friends’ mothers and grandmothers’ did! 

New Orleans has a Cajun French and Creole flavor that could never be mistaken for New York Chinatown or a Mexican American area of Texas. I guess I’ve been carried away by the topic of food!

Additionally, different languages, styles of architecture, and kinds of entertainment give us fascinating settings for our stories. Even though America is a melting pot, we still have very distinct regions with their own proud history and culture.

The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James



In The Fabric of Lovemy historical novella, Eliza Baldwin, a young, bereaved widow and mother of three, struggles to support her family and save enough money for her son’s private school tuition. To earn more income, Eliza wants to take the job offered by Clark Henderson, the handsome, new owner of Whitfield General Store. But she refuses because the headmaster’s wife won’t allow her to work for a living. 

Right from their first meeting, Eliza and Clark feel a strong attraction toward each other. Yet despite their growing feelings, Eliza believes any romantic relationship would show disloyalty to the memory of her late husband. When Clark offers Eliza love and a chance to shed her widow’s weeds and genteel poverty, she’s unsure about what the Lord has in mind for her. 

Will she reject Clark’s love and his kindness or hold fast to her old life and the rules society has imposed upon her?

******

Cara Lynn James lives in northwest Florida with her daughter, grandson and two exceptionally lovable dogs, a Papillion and a lab mix. She’s busy with her family, church and two writers’ groups. She also finds time to write (but not quite as much as she’d like to) and read lots of novels. Her published books are “Love on a Dime,” “Love on Assignment,” “Love by the Book,” and“A Path toward Love.”

Two more novellas, “The Innkeeper’s Promise,” and “Staging a Romance” will be released soon!
   
The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn James
Per Cara: This is Cara Lynn the way she looks and the way she wishes she looks. :)

Visit Cara on Facebook.


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!

Our Hometown Hopes


by Laurel Blount

Mindy here, and I am so pleased to have my friend and fellow Love Inspired author, Laurel Blount with us today. I am such a fan her books, so I hope you all will give her a warm Seekerville welcome.

Our Hometown Hopes
My own hometown! Photo by King Davis
I’m what my grandma used to call a “homebody.” I still live ten minutes away from the hospital where I was born. In this age of convenient travel, that’s a little unusual--in the past, not so much. I’ve read that not too long ago most folks rarely traveled farther than thirty miles from their birthplace. And I’ve heard the Amish don’t embrace cars because they don’t want their communities becoming too mobile. They feel easy mobility tears the fabric of family and friendships.

Okay, so most of us aren’t too eager to surrender our car keys, but I do sense a growing hunger for old-fashioned hometowns. A common remark I hear about my Pine Valley, Georgia books for Love Inspired is “I wish I could move to that place!” I’ve heard readers say similar things about the towns in other series--such as Mindy Obenhaus’s books set in Ouray, Colorado. And recently the Love Inspired editors reminded their authors that they’d like to see even more small-town settings.


I’m wrapping up final edits for my last book to be set in Pine Valley, Georgia--so I’ll be looking for a new “hometown” for future stories. With that in mind, I’ve done some informal polls to discover what hometown really means to my readers. The folks I talked to came from all sorts of places, but I discovered some interesting common factors that I’ll be keeping in mind as I craft my next series.

A hometown feels like family. I heard over and over that home is wherever family is. Maybe that’s why Love Inspired is encouraging authors to connect series books through family relationships rather than only geographical settings. Sure, they can drive us a little batty sometimes, but strong family ties make us feel at home!

A hometown feels familiar. People spoke fondly of long-standing traditions in their hometowns, of special landmarks and beauty spots, and of historical events that had occurred nearby. Memories are wound about these beloved places, giving them a unique sparkle for the folks who call them home. Every person was convinced that their own hometown was the very best place to live! 
Our Hometown Hopes
A hometown feels friendly. Readers praised towns that rally together to help each other during difficult times. They talked not only about personal friendships, but also about a wider sense of fellowship with their neighbors.  These relationships transform a town from a place you live to a place you belong. That sense of shared community is something people really yearn for!

Thanks to amazing technology, our mobile world seems--in some ways--more connected than ever. But people still long for those old-fashioned, hometown connections --and they’d enjoy spending a few hours visiting characters in a place that feels comfortable to them. Now that I know the kind of place they’re looking for, it’ll be that much easier to use my story settings to welcome them home! 

My third Love Inspired HOMETOWN HOPE releases today! My book baby and I share a birthday--how sweet is that?! And what’s a birthday without a gift? Today I’m giving away a copy of HOMETOWN HOPE. To be entered in a random drawing, just leave a comment!

Our Hometown Hopes

He’ll do anything for his daughter…
Even fight to regain an old classmate’s broken trust.

In the three years since her mother’s death, widower Hoyt Bradley’s daughter, Jess, hasn’t spoken—until she suddenly begs him to save her favorite bookstore from closing. Hoyt is desperate to hear his daughter’s voice again, but he and the bookstore’s pretty owner, Anna Delaney, share a less-than-friendly past. Working together is complicated enough…but can they avoid falling in love?


Our Hometown Hopes
Laurel Blount lives on a small farm in middle Georgia with her husband, their four children, and an assortment of very spoiled animals. She divides her time between farm chores, homeschooling, and writing. She's busy, but at least she's never bored! Whenever she's not working, you can find Laurel with a cup of tea at her elbow, a cat in her lap, and a good book in her hand. Stay in touch by signing up for her monthly newsletter at www.laurelblountbooks.com


Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

By Guest Angela Ackerman

Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

An interesting thing happens when setting and character come together, something writers don’t fully realize, or if they do, may not use to its full advantage: combined with intent, these two elements produce emotion. 
What do I mean by that? Well, think about us in the real world. Are there places you choose to vacation again and again? Is there a specific route you like to walk the dog, or areas in the city you enjoy visiting? Do you have a favorite restaurant, room in the house, coffeeshop, or park to sit in? I’m betting you do. Spaces we return to are special in some way, causing us to experience positive emotions. We may enjoy them for their beautiful scenery, their energy or solitude, because they remind us of the comforts of home, or some other meaningful reason. 
Just as we gravitate to places that make us feel good or safe, we also make emotional decisions about locations to avoid: that dark ally shortcut, the friend’s car that smells like spoiled milk, the high school football field where we were humiliated in front of the entire senior class. These spaces make us feel unsafe, vulnerable, or unhappy.
Our characters are just like us, so they will also have a catalog of places that hold personal meaning, good and bad.

Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo


The difference between the real world and the fictional one? Rather than shield our characters from uncomfortable emotions, we want to encourage them.
I know, it sounds a bit sadistic but exposing them to settings that trigger a range of emotions, some of which they desperately want to avoid, will not only produce conflict (a necessary ingredient in story), it will help to reveal their hidden layers. 
Beneath the surface of any character is a dark underside: insecurities, fears, and pain caused by negative past experiences and unresolved emotional trauma. This baggage is costly to lug around, causing unhappiness and steering the character’s life off course. This is usually how readers find them at the start of a story: incomplete, adrift, and hurting. And, if the writer has chosen a change arc for the character, it’s even more important to pull this pain to the surface where it can finally be acknowledged and dealt with. Only then can the character move forward toward happiness and hope, fulfilling the change arc and achieving their goal. 
Positive and negative, emotions are the lifeblood of a story. The setting we choose for each scene is a vehicle to bring out a wider range of emotions, including those that provide a window for readers to see inside the character and the struggle going on within. Here are three ways you can deliberately use the setting to bring out your character’s deeper emotions. 

Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

Choose Specific Settings for a Reason
With each scene, think about the actions that will unfold and what each character’s emotional state will be. If you can, find a setting location that will amplify these emotions, perhaps by choosing one that holds personal meaning (good or bad). For example, what location would be a better choice for revealing a parent’s betrayal to her adult son: in the car on the way to the airport at the end of a visit, or at the playground where the character and his mother would come every day after school? The setting itself can trigger powerful emotions in the right circumstance.
Provide Obstacles
If your character is under so much pressure they’re struggling to function or they are on their final frayed nerve, use the setting to plant a natural obstacle in their path (a nosy security guard, a locked door, a car that dies halfway to their destination) that pushes them past their limits to cope. This new difficulty will trigger powerful, raw emotions whether they break under the strain, or find inner strength to prevail. 
Resurrect a Ghost
When it comes to the painful past, characters want it to stay there: in the past. So instead, we writers should dig around in that old suitcase of pain and resurrect a ghost: a person, thing, situation, or experience that will act as an echo of that past trauma. It might be a setting itself, or something that can be inserted into the setting. Maybe the character’s alcoholic dad shows up unannounced to her child’s graduation party at a restaurant, or a couple planning a honeymoon trip arrive at their appointment to discover the travel agent is a bitter ex-girlfriend. Perhaps the character is ill and is forced to pull into a roadside stop, a place she normally avoids at all costs as she was carjacked at one once.
What does the character feel in this moment? What will they do? Choose settings and setting elements specifically to awaken complicated emotions and possibly force them to deal with something from the past. 
Becca and I love to think about how we can push description to work harder in our stories. The possibilities are endless, so we encourage you to always think deeper, combining elements and experimenting with ways to increase tension, personalize story moments, and especially to deepen emotion. 
Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

If you ever need help, visit our website or check out our books. And if you happen to be a fan of our work, you might be interested to know there is now a Second Edition of The Emotion Thesaurus. We’ve added 55 new emotions to the original 75 and have made a lot of other improvements. We also have a free webinar on Using Emotion to Wow Readers that we’ve made available until the end of February. If this is an area of struggle, visit this post to grab the link!

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, (now an expanded 2nd edition!) as well as six others. Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. Find her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Journey to Churchill

By guest Laurie Wood
Journey to Churchill



           People have asked me if Northern Deception is the “book of my heart” and it is in the sense that since I began writing for the CBA market, I’ve felt a calling to write books set in Canada. This was the hardest book I’ve ever written up till now. It’s also the first book I’ve written for the CBA market, and I’m sure that's why it was so hard to write.


            The idea for Northern Deception came in stages. I didn’t want to make my first hero the “standard” Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer–or “Mountie”–even if the red-serge uniform is a Canadian icon. I kept joking to my husband that when people think of Canadian men, they think of RCMP officers on horseback or lumberjacks in red flannel shirts!

Journey to Churchill

             One weekend we took our kids to the local Zoo and their favorite part is the extensive polar bear exhibit. We have six rescued polar bears from Churchill, Manitoba which is 1000 kilometers north of Winnipeg. These bears were orphaned, or they came into a human/bear interaction and then didn’t stay away from town after being flown further up north by helicopter, so our Zoo brought them down. And as we were enjoying watching the bears, it hit me: what’s another famous Canadian icon? Our frozen Arctic with our polar bears! And my hero who owns a wilderness guiding tour company in Churchill, Manitoba stepped into my mind, full blown and ready to tell his story. 

Journey to Churchill

            So, I had a hero who owned a wilderness touring company and a heroine who was a polar bear scientist - now the problem was what to do with them? Churchill is home to an international science center where scientists come from around the world, along with university and high school students, to study the arctic ecosystem, and do various research projects. It took a while for me to figure out what to do with this rich location because science is NOT my strong suit! Eventually with research I developed a suspense story based on what could go wrong with a pristine environment that’s already under stress from climate change.
             Churchill, Manitoba is just on the edge of the parallel where the sub-arctic turns into the arctic in Canada so I’m hoping people will enjoy learning about Canada. It sits on the same parallel as Juneau, Alaska and Inverness, Scotland, and yet we still have another 2,794 kilometres of partially inhabited Arctic north of it that reaches to the North Pole.

Journey to Churchill

            For my love story, I did a reunion storyline because it’s one of my favorite romance tropes.I think people with some baggage deserve a second chance at working things out! I also wanted to cover a serious issue in a Christian book in a way that a non-Christian might pick it up and read it and say, “I didn’t think Christians thought that way”, or “I didn’t realize things like that happened to Christians”. And I was fortunate that Anaiah Press agreed with my take on the issue and let me run with it. 
            And the hero also has an adorable three-year-old toddler who has special needs. She’s based on my own daughter at that age. So, if you know of anyone who’s got family or friends with someone with special needs, you’ll love little Sophie. It was a joy to include a character with a disability.
            Weaving all the romance, suspense, back story, and faith threads together was challenging because my other novels were secular. They flowed out of me with ease, and yet none of them sold. I felt as though every word had to be ground out of granite with this book. And yet, I’m humbled by the positive response it’s gotten. The hard work and heartaches have paid off and I hope people will enjoy the suspense and love story and the takeaway of forgiveness for yourself and others. And I hope readers will gain an appreciation for my home country of Canada!
*****
Laurie will be giving away a PDF copy of her book today! In the comments, please let us know you'd like to be entered. Now let's celebrate Laurie's debut!
Journey to Churchill


Reunions can be deadly.

After a savage attack in university, Kira Summers fled to the safety of northern Canada and her work as a polar bear scientist. But when her whistleblower brother dies in a mysterious car crash, she must return home to bury him and pack his belongings. Unaware she’s carrying explosive evidence someone’s willing to kill for, she has no choice but to rely on the one person she never thought she’d see again.

Lukas Tanner, a widowed single father of a special needs toddler, moved to Churchill five years ago. As the proud owner of Guiding Star Enterprises, a wilderness tour company, he and his daughter lead a simple life. But when Kira comes crashing back into his world, he realizes God has other plans. Now, Lukas and Kira must confront a merciless killer as their past and present collide in a deadly race—a race they must win if they have any hope of a future together.

Journey to Churchill
About the Author:

Laurie Wood is a military wife who’s lived across Canada and visited six of its ten provinces. She and her husband have raised two wonderful children with Down Syndrome to adulthood, and their son and daughter are a wonderful blessing to their lives. Over the years, Laurie’s books have finaled in prestigious contests such as the Daphne du Maurier (twice), the TARA, the Jasmine, and the Genesis. Her family lives in central Canada with a menagerie of rescue dogs and cats. If the house were bigger, no doubt they’d have more.



Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!



By Guest Authors from Mountain Brook Ink

Mountain Brook Ink publishing focuses on reader relationships and stories of restoration and renewal. We asked some of our authors to share how they connect relationships: relationships between plot and setting, message and story, and author and reader. Here’s what they had to say: 

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!

Setting is as important to a story as the characters and the plot. I often choose small towns in which to set my stories, but sometimes the plot requires a city. For example, my book The Reluctant Groom is a modern day marriage of convenience story set in the more believable environment of big city Seattle.

But there is no way The Sleuth’s Miscalculation would work in a big city. The plot revolves around a small town librarian who enjoys solving mysteries and consults for the Sheriff’s Department for non-violent crimes. This story begged to be set in a small town with all the familiar quirks that go with small town life. 

Let’s look at settings on television shows. Can you think of an example of where setting was critical to the story? Can you imagine Magnum P.I. being set anyplace but Hawaii, or Castle anyplace but New York City? Those settings enhanced their stories; our settings enhance our books.

In my process, setting is one of the first factors I determine. The very first series I sold was actually based on the setting, and I wrote the story around it. I hope this has encouraged you to have fun with setting and use it to enhance your next project.


Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!

The novel that kickstarted my career was released as part of the Love Finds You line. I held Costco book-signings, received a hardback edition, and had the novel optioned for film. But the most important thing I learned? The power of setting.

In researching for Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho, my best friend and I visited a famous lodge and I took my kids white water rafting. Later, my husband and I decided to ride the motorcycle to Montana and also volunteer at the Sun Dance Film Festival in Utah. I learned things that I wouldn’t have known to add to my stories had I not experienced the location for myself.

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!
Pre-order: https://amzn.to/2PvOZWh
I didn’t want to stop there though. I wanted to set authentic stories all over the world. So I got a job for an airline two years ago. Since then, I’ve hiked the mountains of Colorado, driven a convertible to Key West, attended my first MLB game in Arizona, watched the sun set in San Diego, etc.. My life has become as exciting as that of my characters.

I may not dream fantasy worlds, but I’m so enamored with our world that I want to experience as much as possible. Either way, I find inspiration everywhere, and I believe my Resort to Love series is better for it.


Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!
Book cover coming soon!
Linda Thompson (The Plum Blooms in Winter): Melding Message with Story:

I plot my books “inside out.” And I suspect I’m not alone.

A true story inspired my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter. The aspect of the story that gripped me—its real power—was in the characters’ final epiphanies, their realization of a theme or revelation. But what kind of epiphanies will I portray in my stories?

For my first book, I naively intended the epiphanies to unfold as they happened in real life—while reading the Bible; while hearing a sermon. But that approach isn’t compelling enough for fiction. For a reader to “feel” the character’s epiphany—and have it rock their own world—it must be triggered by “an action and sensory details the reader can share.” (Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft) Burroway supplies an example where an epiphany is sparked by the sight (and smell!) of a trout struggling in a net. Rich sensory details take the POV character back to a memory that triggers his realization and carries the reader in the current of that turning point.

How can you magnify an epiphany?

Engineer your character arc: Start your character with a flaw that places her far away from the point where she’ll end up. 

Engineer your supporting cast: An array of characters with diverse perspectives can help you thoroughly examine the topic of your character’s epiphany, plus create tension and dimension. Consider Tolkien’s casts, and his theme: can everyday people accomplish enormous things?


Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!
 Taylor Bennett (Porch Swing Girl): Connecting with #Bookstagram

It can seem like being an author is all about platform—that word is everywhere, from an agent’s submission guidelines to the ads popping up on your browser, shouting things like “Build a Bigger Platform Now!” 

With all of this pressure to cultivate a group of rabid fans, it’s easy to make platform sound like a regulation, a requirement—something along the lines of “each submission must be double-spaced with 12 pt. Times New Roman font…”

BUT IT’S NOT.

Creating a platform can be an incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling experience for both the author and their group of readers. Take it from me—before I dreamt of being published, I had nothing more than a languishing Facebook account. Skeptical of social media in general, I was hesitant to start promoting myself (and my writing) on platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

But that changed.

I discovered the #bookstagram community, a vibrant group of readers and writers on Instagram. And no matter their diverse passions, they all share a common love: books. Their posts typically highlight a book they’ve read, a book they’re excited to read, or a book that touched their life while growing up.

In other words, this sweet, supportive community is an amazing place to market without actually marketing. By joining in the chatter about some of your favorite books, you can connect with fellow readers who might be interested in checking out your book, too.

It’s a win-win for everyone…and it’s tons of fun, too!

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!
 Janalyn Voigt (MONTANA GOLD series): Description and Connection

Readers often mention that they felt like they actually visited my story worlds. While I love hearing that, it wasn’t always the case. I blush to recall receiving critiques scrawled with messages of a less heart-lifting nature. “Help! I’m drowning in detail.” “Nice description in the opening scene, but when does the story start?” “You don’t need to grandstand.” 

Ouch. 

I had a lot to learn. Grinding through edits has a way of polishing a writer.  Working with editors is an apprenticeship that has taught me to write with more finesse. 

Now, here’s what I don’t do when writing descriptions:

l  Don’t start a story with scenery. Readers might admire the view, but they are more interested in connecting with your characters and engaging with the plot. 
l  Build descriptions around your characters. Rather than going on about the waves at the beach, let your protagonist stand in the surf and watch them roll in. This provides immediacy and avoids stalling the story on descriptions. 
l  Employ the senses but not as a litany. It’s not necessary to use all five, only the ones your viewpoint character would notice.
l  Use detail to sharpen the imagery. Use ‘oaks’ instead of ‘trees.’ Move closer. Show branches etched against the sky and shadows weaving on a mossy bank. 
l  Don’t overwhelm with extraneous details, however. Give enough to paint the scene with light strokes and allow readers to imagine the rest. Let them make the story their own, and they will praise you for it.   

What relationships are important to you as an author and/or as a reader? 

***
Missy here. Let's chat about relationships! And let us know if you'd like to be entered in the giveaway. Mountain Brook Ink would like to give away a print copy to one winner (U.S. only please) from one of these featured titles: Winner's choice between Finding Love in Sun Valley Idaho, The Sleuth's Miscalculation, Porch Swing Girl, or Hills of Nevermore.

****

Award winning author, Kimberly Rose Johnson, married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing. She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul. You can learn more about Kimberly at kimberlyrjohnson.com.

Angela Ruth Strong was first published by a national magazine while still in high school. She has won both Idaho Top Author and the Cascade Award for her novels, and she is the founder of IDAhope Writers. Besides writing, she teaches group fitness classes, travels with her kids on youth group mission trips, and often gets herself into silly situations like hamster ball races or riding on the shoulders of a unicyclist. You can learn more about Angela at angelaruthstrong.com.

Linda Thompson stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what she loves—stories of unstoppable faith. Her debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, launches December 1. She lives in the sun-drenched Arizona desert with her husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as her Chief Military Research Officer, two mostly-grown-up kids, and a small platoon of housecats. You can learn more about Linda at lthompsonbooks.com.

Taylor Bennett is an assistant editor for Magnum Opus Magazine. She has published several pieces of fiction and nonfiction in Magnum Opus Magazine and her novel, Porch Swing Girl, was a semi-finalist in the Go Teen Writers “We Write Books” contest. Taylor is a member of ACFW and OCW and she is active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. You can learn more about Taylor at taylor--bennett.com.

Janalyn Voigt is a multi-genre novelist who has books available in the western historical romance and epic fantasy genres. Her unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and whimsy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary and holds memberships in ACFW and Northwest Christian Writers Association. You can learn more about Janalyn at janalynvoigt.com.




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
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
www.pamhillman.com

Location, Location, Location
Pam again... still celebrating the release of The Road to Magnolia Glen. :)
I'm a sponsor at the Christian Fiction Summer Reading Safari.
Read! Review! Win books! (It really is that easy!)
The Safari Comes to an end July 31st! Have you logged everything in?

Click here!
How to Create a Strong Setting to Balance Unforgettable CharactersGiving Life to Your Setting (Settings, part 2)Deciding What Setting to Use, Part 1The Importance of Setting with Cara Lynn JamesCreating a World in a Book by Guest Blogger Pepper BashamOur Hometown HopesEmotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story ComboJourney to Churchill Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!Location, Location, Location

Report "Seekerville: The Journey Continues"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?

Cancel
×