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Fiction writers have a choice with their setting: Invent it from scratch, or use an already existing location. For instance, many stories are set in New York City. But if a character standing northwest of the Statue of Liberty remarks on the beauty of the statue’s face, you’d better be prepared for some nasty letters from New Yorkers who know Lady Liberty faces the other way.

Or, you can do what I did: Have your cake and eat it, too. Mine has traditional chocolate frosting, thank you. In Storm Chaser, most of the characters live in the tiny – and fictional – town of Hurricane, Indiana. However, the location of the town is a real place, about three miles from my home in Albion. You can drive to the actual spot of Hurricane Books and Bait, and wonder at the empty fields.

For Coming Attractions, I paid tribute to the drive-in where I went as a kid: the Hi Vue. No, not by designing the one in my book after it: That’s based loosely on the Auburn-Garrett drive-in, several miles further from my home and still in operation. Instead, I took the city of Kendallville, Indiana, pulled it from its foundations, and placed it on top of the Hi Vue’s former location.

Not literally, mind you.

It wasn’t much of a move, since the Hi Vue was only a few miles south. I needed a community big enough to support the drive-in, a coffee shop, and a hotel, and Kendallville qualified. But I didn’t want to use the actual city, because I was too lazy to obsess over exact locations and because the coffee shop itself is fictional, and would have ended up in someone’s real store. (I could have put it in the same spot as Summer’s Stories bookstore, which carries Storm Chaser … but it’s for the best that I didn’t, as they’ve moved since then.)

So I created a new city, and honestly only used the vague layout of Kendallville’s main streets as a guideline. What to call it? Not far away is a road, and its name seemed to encapsulate the story’s ideas: The idea that faith, hope, and hard work can be rewarded.

And so was born the little city of Hopewell, Indiana.

 

Next: the characters. Actually, that’s next right after you pop over to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest to pull that daily voting lever for Coming Attractions:

http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts/coming-attractions/

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
ozma914
Oct. 8th, 2012 09:44 am (UTC)
Oh, is that why? I thought it was because you didn't want to slave away in rank poverty for the rest of your life. :-)
millysdaughter
Oct. 8th, 2012 12:16 pm (UTC)
Do you draw actual maps of your cities?
ozma914
Oct. 9th, 2012 06:10 am (UTC)
In this case I didn't, because I've spent a lot of time in Kendallville and simply used its landmarks as my own (I grew up about halfway between there and my hometown of Albion). The descriptions of Hopewell in the story never had to be specific enough for me to invent anything, except for the town hall and the Chandler's coffee shop -- which I placed at the former location of a corner hobby shop that my brother and I used to frequent. The Chandler home I placed not too far from the house where my cousin used to live, about four blocks from downtown.

For the series of stories about firefighters that I planned and partially wrote but never got published, I actually created a city and the surrounding area from scratch, complete with making a detailed map. It was a lot of fun, but when I go back to it I'll probably make major changes to reflect what I've learned about real city layout since then.
millysdaughter
Oct. 9th, 2012 12:16 pm (UTC)
Since I am directionally challenged, I need a paper map to keep me from turning left when I should go right or vice versa.
ozma914
Oct. 9th, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
That's the way most of the people who call 911 are, too.

I love maps, actually -- have a collection of them for fun at home, and of course another collection in two huge three ring binders at work.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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