Welcome Wednesday guests for September:
9/03 Beach-Read novelist, Mary Hogan (Two Sisters);
9/10 Fast-track Guppy Annette Dashofy (Lost Legacy);
9/17 Florida Coast author, Terrie Farley Moran (Well Read, Then Dead);
9/24 Cozy Confection author, Kathy Aarons (Death Is Like A Box Of Chocolates).


Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.


Don't miss next month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.


KM Rockwood's short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Building a Novel

I love a book with a strong sense of place.

Poor plot or no plot, doesn’t matter as long as I am transported to somewhere I have never been. I often read with a map in my hand if the setting is real, as in Victoria Thompson series set in New York City in the late Victorian period.

My own works are usually set in real places: Cambridge, Massachusetts or Wilmington, Delaware in the 1890s, or a small Massachusetts town in the early 1800s, even the two historical sites where I work. I have just started novel #7 set in a fictional town on the Delaware River.

The advantage of using a real setting is that there are maps and all kinds of information out there. I know who actually built and lived in the houses my characters inhabit. I know what was going on in the town at the time the action of the story is taking place. Though the houses are real, I took the liberty of moving them to another location. I chose Dana Street because that is where the fare on the trolley line went from five cents to seven cents. I also have a large selection of secondary and tertiary characters.

The advantage of- a made up location is that no one can say you got it wrong. In one novel I read, the bus, which was one I took frequently, went up one street and turned left. Well, it doesn’t, you actually have to change at that intersection. Minor but annoying.

So I have to begin by inventing a whole town. My first problem is that the land I want for my town is actually marsh and hard to build on. So I have to set down some foundation of rock or my town will vanish. I have been wandering around for days wondering what is under my feet.

When I laid out my town of some 700 people, it divided itself into Delaware Street where the better sort live, the middle sort to the north and the poorer sort to the south, in the marsh. I can already feel the mosquitoes. Good thing there is a breeze off the river most days. I already know this is a port of sorts, since the Delaware River was the highway to Philadelphia in a time when roads were poor if they existed at all. Fishing in the river and farming on the dryer land to the west, sustain the town.

The town had to be named after the prominent families, the Cobbs, the Pleasants and the Mannings. Delaware is filled with place names that incorporate a landmark. Crossing, Gap, Corner, Inlet, Point or Cape. Even Hummock. So Cobbs Crossing was duly incorporated. Now I had a map of the town with a tavern on the western edge on the main road from New Castle to Delaware City, both real towns.

A tavern…great place to find a body of a stranger. But who and why? Cobbs Crossing is not on a well traveled or important road. Why would anyone be murdered there?

Let’s keep spinning and see where we are a year from now.

Pictures: New Castle County Courthouse, Geologic Map of New Castle County and Delaware City from the air.

5 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

I love setting too, but I also like atmosphere. I want to see the place, but I also wanted feel the weather, smell what's there, hear the background and when appropriate taste it too. Genre writing doesn't lend itself to lots of description, but a few well placed descriptions can flesh out a novel like no other.

My setting is the Outer Banks, N.C. When I revise, I'll review those elements of the sense to make sure readers who have never been there have a sense of place.

Maps are sometimes placed in the front of books so the reader can keep track of proximity. Sometimes they are helpful, but if I have to refer to them too often, they become a burden.

Pauline Alldred said...

I was fascinated by the way you built up your town. My thoughts about place would be it depends on the character who tells the story. I might think a city is dirty and scary but someone who was born and raised there but love every smelly street and alley, and all the seedy nightclubs where he wasted his teen years.
If I grew up in the suburbs or a city, I might find a rural community boring and hate the way birds wake me in the morning and storms seem like a person threatening my front door and windows.

Warren Bull said...

Thank you for a peek at your method of engineering a story. The location, weather and geological characteristics can add a setting as an important character in a story.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Fascinating! I love your town and can't wait to read the novel you'll set there. I think many readers go back to certain books because they love the setting.

I also created an imaginary town for my book, EVERY LAST SECRET (forthcoming from Minotaur Books 4/24/12). In some ways, I think it makes the writing easier, but it takes a lot of work upfront before you begin--the same kind of work that you're describing so clearly here.

Gloria Alden said...

I've created my town much as you have, although mine is present day. I, too, love the setting in a good book. I'm fascinated by real settings, especially if it's a place I've been. After I'd read Laurie R. King's Kate Martinelli series set in San Francisco, I enjoyed my visits there even more. I also love the fictitous town of Three Pines in Louise Penny's books. I can't wait to read your book with Cobb's Landing as a setting.