Real Settings or Made Up Ones ?
When a writer is in the process of coming up with a story idea, there’s always the choice before them of whether to pick a place that exists or come up with something from their own imagination. There are pluses and minuses for both.
I remember a number of years ago, reading an Amish story that was set in the town where I live. The author had the character come in on a bus from a nearby city, walk through the streets, meandering through the ‘slums’ before heading out of town and toward another small town. There were two big problems with that story. #1 – our town doesn’t have a bus route that comes from the city mentioned. In fact the only bus that runs is local. #2 – there aren’t any slums in our town. As a reader, it turned me off to the story because the author hadn’t done her research.
Some publishers prefer their writers to only write about real places. When writing, I’ve often had a mix of real and made up places. With writing historical romance, I try to research as much as possible when it comes to writing about a real town, but there’s always that chance that I missed something and won’t accurately convey the place and time period.
My newest story is a mix of real and made up. My story is set in Burrton Springs, Kansas. It’s not a real place, but I did loosely pattern it from Burrton and Pleasant Grove, Kansas where my in-laws lived when my father-in-law was a pastor of two small churches in both of those places. It allowed me to convey a flavor of the area without being stuck into the history of the town itself.
However, there is a part of my story that takes place in a real portion of Texas. It’s called the Narrows and is in the hill country.
The actual scene where I highlight the area isn’t a very long one, but I did extensive research to make sure I could accurately describe the terrain. My husband’s aunt and uncle live real close to the area, so they were extremely helpful with the research. Then, a couple years ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Texas and being able to witness the place for myself. As I trekked over the land, I could see in my mind, my story playing out.
As a reader, which do you prefer, real settings or made up ones?
And now for a peek at Jodie’s book Taming Julia. Gotta love this opening. I know I do. (Catherine)
By Jodie Wolfe
Matrimony News, February 6, 1875 edition
Minister bachelor aged 27, height 5 feet 10 inches seeks genteel, honest and first-rate homemaker with a desire to serve God. Must be willing to marry by proxy and arrive in Burrton Springs, Kansas by May 1.
Burrton Springs, Kansas, Saturday, May 1, 1875
Dear Lord, please don’t let that creature be my new wife. Drew Montgomery swiped the sweat trickling a path down his neck and shoved the new hat back on his head. He squinted, taking in the lone passenger stepping from the stagecoach. At least, he thought it was a woman. He shielded his eyes from the sun, taking in the britches.
Britches? A gun belt strapped to a slim waist. He gulped. A rifle rested on her shoulder, and she wore a Stetson situated low on her brow. The figure shifted sideways, and Drew groaned, fearing his proxy mail-order bride had arrived by the look of all the curves. He squared his shoulders and crossed the street.
“Are you Montgomery?” Her coffee-brown gaze seared through him.
He snapped his gaping mouth shut and nodded. “Y-yes.”
“Name’s Jules Walker.” She shoved her hand into his and shook it so hard his teeth clattered. “I reckon, Jules Montgomery since we’re hitched.” She waved a slip of paper in his face. “Got the paper here to prove it. So are you my husband or not?”
Drew caught a whiff of dirt. He coughed and cleared his throat.
She peered at him as if he were a chicken with one leg.
“I’m Drew.” He managed to choke the words out. “Isn’t your name Julia?”
She scrunched her face, pushed her Stetson from her head, and allowed it to dangle from the string around her neck. Her brown hair scattered in disarray, slipping from a shoulder-length braid. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve been called Julia. Like I said, name’s Jules.”
“But…” Drew let the word hang between them. No matter. “Where’re your things?”
“Got my knapsack and that there.” She pointed to the top of the stagecoach. He expected to see a trunk, but a saddle rested there instead. What kind of woman brought a saddle into a marriage? What kind of woman showed up dressed like a man? No. No. Something was terribly wrong.
About the Author:
Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and COMPEL Training. She’s been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online at: Crosswalk, Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio. She’s a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Time blog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at http://www.jodiewolfe.com.
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