Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Something that writers need to figure out in every book is setting. We need to make it unique, yet familiar, and many authors struggle with whether to use real locations or make them up to suit the book

I did a little of both for the setting of my books in my Mennonite series, which for now is two books, first The Narrow Path, and the second, out now (and with a 4 ½ star rating with Romantic Times) The Path to Piney Meadows.

You might guess that the name of my town is Piney Meadows.  This town is created yet is based on a real town in the same area, which is northern Minnesota.  I don’t live there, but I know people who do, one of whom used to live in the actual town, which I have renamed.  Because I couldn’t stick 100% to the real details of the real town, I made it fictional. Yet I am still true to the details of the climate, topography, flora, and fauna. I use a number of real locations that are close by, so anyone who has been there, or will ever be there, will feel the familiarity, and that makes it “feel” real to the reader, or anyone who has been there.

Part of how this is done is that I really have been in the area, even though not to the actual small town that became “Piney Meadows, MN”, and it’s been many years. For those who think they can use the internet to fill in the blanks, that isn’t the most accurate source. Successfully using setting in a story is more than reciting facts of temperature and wind velocity. It’s how it feels to be there, and many things go into that feeling. All it takes is to be wrong with one, and a reader who has been there will know the difference.

One example, in The Narrow Path, Ted and Miranda were in the car driving north on the highway. He was adequately dressed for the climate, but she was not. I had Ted turn up the heat on full, but Miranda was still cold. Ted was too warm, so he stopped the car in the middle of the highway (it was night when there was no traffic), he got out of the car, quickly took off his coat, tossed it in the back seat, got back in the car, and kept driving. To make sure my memory served me correctly on all the details, I emailed this scene to my friend who lived there, and she emailed it to her brother, who still does live in a nearby town. He emailed me back saying the scene made him laugh, because not only was I exactly right with the scene details, he does that exact same thing himself.

I got it right.

For my current book The Path To Piney Meadows, I did a lot of research on chickens in the area – of course they can’t survive outside in cold weather, so I had to find out what to do in that kind of community. I now know a lot about raising backyard chickens in general, and what is needed to build a good and realistic chicken coop in the city. 

With the current trend in raising backyard chickens, many people don’t just keep their chickens outside. Because you can’t potty-train a chicken, you can buy chicken diapers on eBay. Check it out.

Gail Sattler lives in Vancouver BC (Canada, eh!) with her husband, three sons, two dogs, and a lizard who is quite cuddly for a reptile. When she's not writing, Gail plays piano for her church's worship team, electric bass for a local jazz band, and acoustic bass for a community orchestra. When she's not writing or making music, Gail likes to sit back with a hot coffee and read a book written by someone else.

She doesn't twitter but has a Facebook page.
Her website - www.gailsattler.com
Book site - www.mennonitefiction.com

Facebook page for the Bloomfield Series - www.facbook.com/bloomfieldclub
If you like Where's Waldo, try to Go Get Gnorman - www.gogetgnorman.com

Don't forget to stop by Friday and enter to win a free copy of Gail's latest release, The Path to Piney Meadows!


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