One Easy Way to Create a Fictional Town
Janet Chester Bly
My late husband, Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly, chose all his fiction story settings to happen in the West, whether historical (1880-1905) or contemporary. When I started writing solo adult novels of my own, I determined to stay with that brand and his specific geographical boundary.
However, I also heeded the most basic sage advice for beginning writers: “write what you know.”
As I conceived my own stories, I found inspiration outside my office window. Here I was in a small town (popl 350) at 4,200 foot elevation, on a mountain top prairie in north-central Idaho. But there was no way I should use its name or fashion any part of the plot from real people. After much consideration, I determined to keep the landscape as is, but change everything else, making it a fictionalized version of the village I live in.
That provided a number of positive possibilities.
I didn’t have to travel far away to describe the scenes. And no one could tell me I didn’t get it right. Details about ranch life, coyote threats, and cows getting slaughtered, grew from an interview with a local rancher just down the road.
Converting my novel town to the fictional name of Road’s End, I could also change anything I wanted and not have locals calling me out for accuracy. And my new fiction story world could be peopled with totally unrelated folks to the citizens I knew. No need to guess which character resembled a real, living person.
Meanwhile, I got to know the terrain and history of my region as well as I could. For instance, a few weeks before I started writing the scenes in Book 1, Wind in the Wires, our local museum sponsored a day-long, narrated bus tour of the history of the surrounding wilderness of our area. I could take advantage of a local man’s generational expertise of the background and lore of my setting. I learned a lot of facts, yet could embellish all I wanted. No script to stick to.
However, one of the characters of Wind in the Wires, 91-year-old Seth Stroud, determined to take a road trip in his purple Model T, in hopes of solving two cold case murders. That did shove me out of the house and onto my own adventure.
As I left the Idaho Camas Prairie and headed to Goldfield and Silver Peak, Nevada, I used real names of sites along the way and stuck to facts as much as possible. Descriptions of the desert scenes came straight from my first-hand notes. And I so appreciated readers comments about how real the descriptions formed images in their minds. In addition, much of that research I could also use for another road trip in Down Squash Blossom Road, Book 2 in the series.
If you were going to create a story about the town you live in, would you keep to the right name or change it? Why or why not? If you’d change it, what alternate name comes to mind?
Title: Down Squash Blossom Road
Series: Book 2, Trails of Reba Cahill Series
Author: Janet Chester Bly
Cowgirl Reba Cahill’s schedule is full.
Save the family ranch.
Free her mom from a mental institute.
Take another road trip.
Solve a murder … and a kidnapping.
Plus, evade a stalker.
Can she also squeeze in romance?Reba Cahill thought she could focus on the duties of the ranch, to help out her widowed grandmother. But a crippled Champ Runcie returns to Road’s End in a wheelchair and seeks revenge for the accident that put him there. Meanwhile, a letter from her estranged mom forces her and Grandma Pearl back on the road: I can leave now. Come get me. Love, MomWhen they arrive in Reno, her mother issues a demand and refuses to return to Idaho. They head west instead. In California, Reba’s friend Ginny’s marriage is on the rocks. The family business is threatened. And squabbles turn deadly.Reba digs deep to find the courage to forge a relationship with her mom and escape a crazed man’s obsession. She also faces an uncertain future even as a horse trainer offers her a new horse to replace Johnny Poe … and maybe more.
About the Author
Janet Chester Bly is the widow of Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly. Together—his, hers, and theirs–they published 120 fiction and nonfiction books for adults and kids. Janet and their three sons finished Stephen’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, a Selah Award Finalist. Down Squash Blossom Road is Book 2 in the Reba Cahill contemporary western mystery series. Book 1 is Wind in the Wires. Find out more at www.BlyBooks.com
NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling author Rachel Hauck said of Book 1, Wind in the Wires: “I love your voice! I love the setting…It’s a great story!”
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