Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Creating Your Fictitious Town

Today Seekerville welcomes Love Inspired author, KIM WATTERS
I love Dynamite Creek, Arizona. Too bad it doesn’t really exist outside of my books.
But if it did exist, it would be a really cool town. Why? Because Dynamite Creek springs from that creative space in my brain and anything I want to happen there—well, just happens. While Dynamite Creek is based on the city of Prescott, Arizona and located close to Flagstaff, some of the buildings, shops, events, and people don’t exist. That’s the beauty of making up your own town.
Need a candle shop on the square like in my book Home Sweet Home? Then plop one smack dab in the center of one of your blocks. Need a hobby shop like in my latest release, A Season of Love? Put one in there, too. Need various festivals at certain times of the year for a fun thing for your hero and heroine to do? Go ahead and have as many as you want. Opportunities are endless and I love the freedom of all the choices I can make without the constraints of using a real town.
So, how do you create a fictitious town?
First identify what type of town you want. Big? Medium? Small? Keep in mind that your town is going to be another character in your book, so choose wisely. This is especially important if you write more than one book in this town.
Then choose your name. Make sure your name matches the mood of your book. Since I write contemporary Christian fiction, I would not want to choose a name that could convey a mystery, suspense or horror. I chose Dynamite Creek for a few reasons. One, Arizona has a lot of mines and I wanted to capture that feel. I also live relatively close to Dynamite Road in Phoenix, which I think is an interesting choice for a name. And lastly, my general practitioner’s office is called Dynamite Creek Medical Center. I always thought would be a cool name for a small town, so when I was trying to decide on a new book for Love Inspired, I actually built the story around the name.
Next, create a history for your town. Go crazy. Be creative. Every town has a history but think about how much fun it is to create your own. Who founded it? Why was it founded? What are some of the local characters that made the town what it is today? Even if these things don’t come out in your finished novel, it’s always good to have them in the back of your mind while you’re writing. Plus you never know when you might need that information.

Add details. What type of buildings are there? Businesses? People? Schools? Streets? Plants and trees? Weather? The list could go on and on. It’s your town so add or subtract things as needed. If something’s not working, take it out. If you need a certain business, add it in. For A Season of Love, I needed a Christmas Shop on one of the main streets in town.Viola. I plopped it down across from the Courthouse in the square.
And lastly, add flavor. What’s unique or different about this town? Is there something the town is known for? Did something happen that makes it notable?
As for the process, think layering. You don’t have to have everything all at once. Start with the basis and then layer more information on to flesh it out. Real towns weren’t built in a day, so don’t expect your fictitious one to be either. I’m currently working on my third book based in Dynamite Creek, and I continue to discover new and unique things to add to my town on an almost daily basis.
Another important thing is to be organized, especially if you are going to keep writing stories in this town. Draw maps. Create charts of businesses, characters, festivals and etc. I use excel spreadsheets to keep everything straight. I use reoccurring characters and businesses from one book to another, so keeping them straight is a must, plus it creates less of a brain drain when I want to add another character into my current work in process. Why not add someone I’ve used before? I already know a little bit about them.
One of the drawbacks to creating your own town is you can’t visit it or google it to see what it’s like. So I found it is easier to have a real town in mind to base it on, but then let my creativity take over. Since Dynamite Creek is based on Prescott, I usually make an annual trip up north to get the flavor of the town again and also check for any changes that might have happened. Plus I really like Prescott, so doing that type of research isn’t really a chore but a fun weekend away from the heat of the Valley in the summertime.
So for you writers out there, do you prefer using real towns or making them up?
For you readers out there, what is your preference?

If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for “A Season of Love,” please mention it in the comments section, then check our Weekend Edition for the winner announcement!
The Soldier’s Gift: Just in time for Christmas, a tall, dark and handsome Scrooge visits Holly Stanwyck’s holiday shop, threatening eviction. But once landlord Ethan Pellegrino sees the single mom’s plight, the former soldier becomes her protector instead. Suddenly he’s helping her with her struggling business and bounding with her troubled son. A wounded veteran come home to heal, Ethan is no stranger to sorrow. But something about the pretty widow fills him with hope. Will Holly be able to let go of her own painful past to see her future by his side?
Excerpt: Ethan momentarily lost himself in Holly’s presence. Her swept back locks exposed her long, elegant neck and straight, slightly upturned nose. But it was her vulnerability that got to him.
Despite her attempts to keep it all together, he sensed just below the surface she suffered and struggled with her son, the shop, everyday life.
He should step away. Instead, when she turned her head toward him, he found himself staring into her deep green eyes that had seen so much pain. A pain he could identify with. He’d lost his father at a young age, and several of his friends in Afghanistan. But even that couldn’t compare to losing one’s partner, one’s soul mate.
He had no experience with that sort of loss, yet he felt the need to comfort. Protect. He wanted to draw Holly into his arms and absorb her pain and blend it with his own.
Kim Watters. At twelve years old, Kim fell in love with romance novels after she borrowed a Harlequin book from her older sister’s bookshelf. An avid reader, she was soon hooked on the happily-ever-after endings.  For years she dreamed of writing her own romance novel, but never had the time until she moved from the hustle and bustle of Chicago to a small town north of Phoenix, Arizona. Kim lives with her two wonderful children, three cats, one neurotic fish and a crazy snail.


Marion Faith Laird said...

Wonderful article, and very helpful! :) I've made up my share of towns, and I love your idea of using Excel to make charts! Thanks so much!

Please enter me for a chance to read A Season of Love. Thanks!

Marianne Barkman said...

Because I winter with Mom in El Mirage, Arizona ( think white tank mountains or Luke Airforce Base) I love everything Arizona. Of course, I had to google Dynamite you live in Cave Creek? That is one beautiful place! Lovely homes. I imagine your town grows with each additional business, park, etc! Please add my name to the dish/hat/ring for a chance at your book. Thanks

Vince said...

Hi Kim:

I like real towns when the location is exotic or famous and is someplace I would like to learn about and visit. I’d rather read about the real Santa Fe than a made up town that is supposed to be Santa Fe. I’d like the characters in the real Santa Fe to go to the opera and to festivals that reflect real experiences. As a marketing person I like to promote books that are in great locations that many people have visited or want to visit in the future. Put this location on the cover and the setting alone will sell a lot of books. I buy four authors because their books are always set in the southwest.

I like fictional towns for small towns that have big personalities. I like “Dry Creek” (Janet Tronstad) for the personality of the town and people who live there but I would not want to live there myself. I like “Canyon Springs” (Glynna Kaye) for the beautiful setting and I would want to live there.

I also like it when the town has a rival town near. It’s like having built in conflict anytime an author wants it.

One more thing: on fictional towns please get your location down. I read one book that took place in Oklahoma and the driving times to different real cities made the location impossible to actually have in Oklahoma. That drove me nuts and stepped on the story.

Yes, please put me in for one of your books. I like the idea of layering towns. They can grow just as people can.


Terri said...

Hi Kim, thanks for sharing. I just finished a book based on a real town and am working on one with a fictitious town. Fictitious is so much more fun!

I love the freedom and creativity it affords. I love your idea of maps and such because for series. Great idea!

Please enter me in the drawing.

Natalie Monk said...

Fun post! I made up my town in my MSS. I hadn't thought of a famous event or attraction that makes the town unique, though. Hmm. Will have to work on that one. Thanks for this fun post!

Jenny Blake said...

I think I read something about creating towns and keeping a map and details by Winnie Grigg (or another LI author) and how some readers will pick up the errors. I like both real and created towns. In a lot of cases I like the made up ones. as long as they tell me what state they are in.
I love how you can create your own shops, buildings people etc. when it becomes a series I find I can picture the town to a degree.
I would love to go in the drawing.
By the way Welcome Kim.

Cindy W. said...

I think it depends upon the story whether I like fictional towns or real towns. When I am reading a WWII historical I love it when the author uses real towns. One of my favorite historical authors set her debut novel in my hometown and her detail was phenomenal. On the other hand I love fictional towns because they seem so much more creative and I don't have to wish I could go there since I know it doesn't exist. I have been known to Google a town mentioned in a novel just to find out if it is real because I fell in love with it.

I am currently creating a town in my WIP and your blog today has given me some good ideas. Thank you so very much.

I would love to be entered to win a copy of A Season of Love, thank you for the opportunity.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh this is fun!

My first book was SEASON OF JOY and the one that came out this month was SEASON OF HOPE and ... you know where I was going. And then I saw your book on the shelf and thought, "There's my title!!"

So, now I have no idea what to name book #3, due in a month. Hmmmm.

This was a great post. I'm horrible at creating imaginary places but I've heard it's easier on the fiction writing. Especially when writing historicals.

Annie Rains said...

I prefer to use fictional towns based on real towns near where I live. And I'm a small town girl, so I always use small towns.

Thank you for your post today. I'd love to be entered in the drawing for your book :)

Happy Wednesday, Seekerville!

Naomi Rawlings said...

I'm totally confused, Kim. Your book cover has snow, but I thought it was set in Arizona? My brain is kind of confused at the moment.

But as for fictional towns vs. real life towns, I've used both. I tend to use fictional towns when I'm not familiar with an area. For books set close to where I live, using real towns isn't difficult. But then, I write historical, so I've still got some room to play. You can bet every town had a milliner's and farriers, so putting one into the novel isn't a stretch in the least. :-)

Mary Curry said...

Good morning, Kim. I love creating fictional towns, but I'd never thought of creating a history for my town. I guess it's like creating backstory for our characters - might never appear in the story, Jt it underlies everything that does happen.

Great post, thanks. I'd love to be in the running for a book.

Mary Curry said...

Virginia, how about Season of Faith?

Kim Watters said...

Good morning Everyone. Thanks for stopping by. Wow this blog is busy first thing in the morning. What a pleasant surprise while I'm drinking my morning coffee. Since this is my writing time before the kids wake up and the craziness of the day descends, I'm going to cheat and write one massive response if Blogger lets me.

Marion-Excel or Word or some other program to write everything down so you have a reference at a moment's notice is the only way to go. I also create a doc for my characters. Some days I can't remember what color eyes they have a voila, instead of going back through the manuscript I open up my character reference page. Yes, I'm a Virgo. LOL.

Marianne-My parents live over in Surprise so I do get to your side of town occasionally. Did anything come up when you googled Dynamite Creek? Yes I live in Cave Creek, and sometimes I use things that happen here in various other settings.

Vince-I agree with you. If an author doesn't nail the location down, it can pull the reader right out of the story. I always set my fictitious town near a real one and use that when determining distances etc.

Terri-Glad I could help. Using maps, too allows you to have a visual which I always find very helpful.

Natalie-Glad I could inspire you. I always find it fascinating to learn about other authors' processes and incorporate some of them into my own writing.

Jenny-I do find using a made up town offers me so many more opportunities to be creative even though I pull a lot from real towns.

Cindy-Glad I could help. Just thought I should mention that I have used real towns in my books. I have two that take place in Scottsdale, but I created my own hospital and a few restaurants (based on real places) so I could add my own details.

Virginia-I love your titles. Yes A season of Love would have been the perfect one for your next book. Sorry. I don't choose the title my publisher does. Best of luck to you with your releases.

Annie-Having lived in a small town for almost 20 years after living in the city of Chicago,I have to say I like living in a small town too. Except everybody knows everybody else's business-which is always fun to write about.

Naomi-that's the beauty of Arizona. Everyone always things about Phoenix and the desert. There is a completely different terrain when you get to the mountains and Grand Canyon. There is snow, and sometimes lots of it. Last December we ran into a blizzard outside of Flagstaff that shut down the highways. It so reminded me of why I left the Midwest.For A Season of Love though I did take the liberty of making it snow more than usual.

Mary-you nailed it. your town is another character that has a history all it's own. Unlike real towns, you can create it to suit your needs.

I do work a day job so I'm not sure when I'll be able to check back in but I will try to sneak in over my lunch hour. Have a blessed day.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning and welcome to SEEKERVILLE, Kim! This is a very timely topic as after writing 7 books set in Canyon Springs, Arizona, I'm beginning to mull over possibly creating another nearby town. Knowing that you used Prescott as a starting place for Dynamite Creek is fun--Prescott's such charming place!

CaraG said...

A crazy snail? How intriguing. Is he? she? a pet or an unexpected visitor who decided to stay? Has “it” been named?

As you can see I can easily be distracted by small details, which is probably why I smile at the thought of creating my own town to revisit time and time again. Can’t believe I hadn't seriously considered such until you fired my imagination with your perfectly logical reasons for doing so. The timing must be right. And I love maps and charts.

Thanks for posting. I’m already running names for small towns through my mind. And layering? Oh, yes. I’ll just have to watch that I don’t get so caught up in building my imaginary world that I forget about the story. But, then, maybe the story will spring from the town itself.

Please add my name to the drawing for your book. This is a must read. Dynamite Creek on a road sign would pull me off the highway for a visit any day of the week.

Mary Hicks said...

This is a fun post. I like making up towns. It's fun to create the shops and tea rooms, galleries and parks and locate them where ever you want or need them. :-)

Please add my name for a chance to win a copy of A SEASON OF LOVE.

Jackie said...

I love creating towns. One coastal town I created I used in three books. I'm not published yet, and I love the town, so I thought why not?

Thanks for sharing this fun post.

Please add my name to the drawing. Thanks.

karenk said...

loved this posting...thanks for sharing :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Audra Harders said...

Great advice for creating towns, Kim. I'm all for plopping shops in where necessary : ) No red tape for planning going on here, LOL!

I don't have the courage to use actual towns in my stories. I keep thinking I'm going to offend someone who may not have my view on their town or shop life. I'm all with you on finding a location that fits your books' needs and tailoring it.

And naming it! Is this fun or what?? I created Hawk Ridge, Colorado based on Crested Butte, a sweet, cozy ski community in the Colorado Rockies. I loved the area because I could blend touristy things along with farming, ranching, skiing, and endless possiblities for creativity. And of course, it's not a hardship to plan long weekends there for research, LOL!

Glynna, I love how you have developed your Canyon Springs series. The town is someplace I want to return to book after book!

Thanks for the fun insight, Kim!

Glynna Kaye said...

VINCE -- I'm like you when it comes to "exotic" locations...I enjoy learning about REAL new places.

One of the tricky things about writing real places (and identifying them as such) is you really have to be SUPER get the details right and, if you need a crooked cop or an adulterous mayor or a big community controversy in your story, you don't want to risk implying anything negative about a REAL town and people in those roles. Which is what makes fictional towns especially appealing to writers.

But I DO love reading about REAL cities, especially if the writer captures the "flavor" but doesn't turn it into a "guided tour." :)

Glynna Kaye said...

NAOMI -- I live in the mountains of Arizona -- higher up than Denver and in a huge ponderosa pine forest. It's 13 degrees this morning, we've already had snow several times, and we could get 120 inches or more of the white stuff this winter. So Arizona is truly a land of contrasts! It sure isn't the stereotyped cactus country much of the country believes it is. :) I really enjoy writing my "Canyon Springs" stories set in this breathtaking mountain country locale.

Cara Lynn James said...

I've always used real places in my stories, but I'd like to create my own town with my own cast of characters. Thanks for the tips.

Chill N said...

KIM -- what a relief to know other writers have maps, etc., of their made-up towns. I have sketches of buildings, a brief town history, a town construction timeline, maps, floor plans for the buildings, I keep track of the weather patterns ... "my" town is sometimes so real it's a bit disconcerting. But it's the locale for three historicals and four contemporaries, so I better know it well.

As both a writer and a reader, I prefer a fictional town. That way I get to visit a place I've never been :-)

Your book sounds so timely. May it do well.

Nancy C

Jan Drexler said...

I love reading about fictional towns, but when I write I always use real places.

I think it's the historical aspect - I love discovering a town's history.

But you have me thinking. Maybe I'll do a fictional town for the next story :)

Please put me in for the drawing!

Sherri Shackelford said...

Wonderful article! And I enjoy making up towns. I draw maps and cut out pictures. I could still be more organized...

Glynna Kaye said...

One "trick" that's fun with maps when creating a fictional town is to turn it over, hold it up to a light or window and view it from the other side -- just the opposite of what the real place is. And if the real place runs beside a main highway, make the highway a lake instead. Or a railroad track. Or a mountain. Or a river or creek.

What other tips and tricks to you use to help you envision your fictional town? Do any of you draw layouts of a property or even the interiors of homes or hotels?

Connie Queen said...

My vote is for making up towns. If it doesn't exist, I can't get in trouble for having the hardware store on Maple Street in 1891 when it wasn't built until 1900 on Oak, burned down in 1903 and rebuilt on Maple one year later.

Does that even make sense?

I love scrooges at Christmas. Your book sounds delightful.

kaybee said...

An interesting post. I've done it both ways. Sometimes you don't have a choice -- one of my stories that I'm shopping around now takes place in a settlement house in Hell's Kitchen, NYC, so it kind of has to be Manhattan. I'm also doing research for a near-future story set at the time of the Revolution and featuring the shot heard round the world, so it kind of has to be Boston. But for my Oregon Trail series, I had Caroline come from a small town in Ohio, and I could have free rein. I called it Summer Pasture. Don't know why, it just stuck in my head. My current WIP, the sequel to the Trail story, takes place in a logging town in Oregon, one of the first settlements, so I could do what I wanted there as long as it was historically accurate. So I've got the mill, the mercantile, a primitive inn/café, a tavern and the leaky shacks the settlers live in while they stake their claims and build real houses. This town is Hall's Mill, again I don't know why.
I would like to do a series some day based on a town, like RUTHY does with Kirkwood Lake. Maybe some day. It's a really good hook for a series -- a good small town can go on forever.
The flip side to that is you can't make the town TOO small or you lose credibility. My daughter and I read some secular mystery series, and sometimes we agree that it's weird to find a billionaire industrialist or a "close" friend with a special talent that WE'VE NEVER HEARDF OF BEFORE. When it stretches credibility it's probably time to create another town.
GLYNNA, thank you for hosting. Your weather this morning actually makes me grateful to be in New Hampshire. But not for long, sigh.

kaybee said...

A random thought that has nothing to do with small towns, big towns, real or made-up towns:
I went to the library Monday and took out my usual shopping bag of books. Two were secular mysteries. They are going back TODAY (Wednesday) with only the first two or three pages read. I couldn't finish them -- couldn't start them, really -- because they were so offensive and I could see where they were going. Ladies and Vince, THIS is why we do what we do. Providing an alternative that may give people a glimpse of God, instead of making them cringe. I'm just sayin'.
Kathy Bailey

Hallee Bridgeman said...

I love the idea of creating a fictional town. I've even played around with drawing maps and such to make one. For some reason doing that always makes me think of the "Sweet Pickles" books I read growing up.

I have an idea for a series that can take place in a fictional town. I have a few more books already in progress, though, so it will be a while before I can get to them. But it will be fun!


Mary Connealy said...

Kim thanks for being on Seekerville!
I always use fictional towns. It's just SO much easier.

I have a novella collection coming in January written with Karen Witemeyer, Carol Cox and Regina Jennings. We set A MATCH MADE IN TEXAS in the same town. Not completely, the stories had their ROOTS in the same town then mostly the characters left town but we found that we had to know quite a bit about that town.

So we had to figure it out.
How big was it. Where was the church? What were a few of the businesses called.

It ended up being ... well ... not a LOT of work but a little bit of work that had to be done right.

We each tossed the names of the businesses in that we had to have.

I need a dress shop. I need a school. I need a bank called Whitson's. I need a General Store run by Mr. and Mrs. Claason.

Details like that skimmed from each of our books, that we realized could trip up the other books.

I realized I needed the town diner to be on the same side of the street as the bank and across the street from the general store, just those little things, those movements you make the characters do, tiny things that can be all wrong in a book if the other writers don't know what you're doing.

So I made a map using an Excel spread sheet. Using each block of the spread sheet as a store name then leaving a few lines as Main Street, then another line of filled in blocks with the business names across the street.

Very simple and clunky but it gave us all a visual and the other authors could look at it, tweak it, add their own details where I had their vision wrong.

Mary Connealy said...

When I started writing the Trouble in Texas series my goal was to set a book in Carlsbad Cavern.
I did so much research and I'd been there, too.

I finally abandoned it and fictionalized my cavern and the reason for it was that the history of Carlsbad was just so well known. Just every tiny detail of how it was discovered is documented.

I just would have had to play so fast and loose with that history.

The only way I could see to make it work was for my heroes to live out their lives and then at some point just....abandon their ranch...move to California or something.

So the TRUE story of Carlsbad could begin.

Fictionalizing it became the only way to go.

And I wanted to set Wrangler in Petticoats in Yellowstone. Again I abandoned that for a similar reason. I could have made that work EXCEPT for reasons of time.
I had sort of 'written myself into a corner' because that book was part of a series.

The dates and times were set before the book began and at the time I needed a vast dangerous wasteland in a certain spot in Yellowstone....there was a HOTEL on that spot.

So.........okay.....we're moving out of the park.......plenty of pretty stuff to paint in the area nearby!

Mary Connealy said...

I also like to find names for fictional towns, like say a town in Texas, but looking for a town in New Mexico or Oklahoma that sounds good, all western-y, then googling that town with TEXAS attached and seeing what comes up.

To see if it's already a Texas town...or a famous Texas restaurant or bar or hotel or BROTHEL or something else that probably a BAD IDEA.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hi and welcome back to Seekerville, Kim. I just made my first trip to Prescott this year. Lovely town.

Valri said...

Kim, I loved your book! The town it's set in kind of reminds me of the town I grew up in! I enjoyed your post too! Thanks!

Vince said...

Hi Kim:

It just occurred to me that giving a famous city a new POV can be truly fascinating. In
“May Finds a Way: Peril in Paris (May the K9 Spy)” by KC Frantzen, the reader gets to ‘see’ Paris (and its famous sights) from about 10” above the ground and through the nose, ears, and, to a lesser degree, eyes of a Schnauzer.

These scenes are so well written that it actually feels like you are in the mind of a dog. In this sense the famous Paris setting, from this canine POV, validates the whole reading experience. It’s even greater fun if you have actually been in Paris on those locations. KC lets you ‘see’ Paris again for the first time. Having read the first book, I have to say the unique Paris location doubled my reading enjoyment over and above what the story was about.

Another great way to validate a setting is to mention things that are secondary and that only people who live there would notice. These are things that you can’t get off the internet. Tina did a great job of this in her book set in Tulsa. That was a perfect way to employ a real city in your writing.


P.S. I’d love to read a LI book with the title, “Season of Awakenment” – it just seems to offer so much promise. Christmas in Sedona. I just have to have it!!!

Chill N said...

Glynna Kaye said...
Do any of you draw layouts of a property or even the interiors of homes or hotels?

I just can't express how reassuring all of this is. My town changes a bit from 1882 to 2012 (ahem) so I have property layouts, drawings that show buildings are enlarged or torn down, sketches of how the 1882 river looks when it's dammed up by the time of the contemps. And yes, I have floor plans and drawings/pix of interiors. Doesn't everyone? :-)

Thanks for the tip about reversing the town!

Nancy C

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kim, welcome back! A soldier Christmas story???? Well, be still my heart!

This sounds wonderful and I love creating towns, too! It's so fun. There's a background dynamic in a series town that feeds into the ongoing relationships.... Those positive and negative elements sure do add a note of realism to our writing.

Vince!!! You'll be happy to know that I Googled the drive times from our fictional town of Jasper Gulch in Montana to get the actual time/distance to places like Helena, Bozeman, Billings.... and Detroit, because Grandma and Grandpa lived in Detroit and watched their quaint old 1950's neighborhood fall into disrepair.

You're right, little things like that take a reader out of a story.

Kim, I brought a fresh coffee set-up and a cooler of cold drinks! It's too early for most o' youse for lunch and I'm ridin' herd on a posse full of youngun's going to the zoo.... :) Which isn't too much different from HOME hereabouts.

Catch you all later, and Kim: Love That Cover!!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Kim, we're so glad you're with us today! I love making up my small towns. I usually base them on my favorite parts of small towns around where I live.

I went to speak to a book club once, and the ladies there recognized their town! That was a really cool moment. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Nancy C, I have drawings, too. :) Unfortunately, for the first town I created, I jotted it on scrap paper while on a plane! So I finally had to tape it in a notebook because it kept getting lost. LOL

I think I need to come up with a way to draw a map on my computer. Maybe in some kind of drawing program.

April Gardner said...

How fun, Kim! As a historical fiction writer who bases her books on some big historical event, I'm obligated to use REAL towns, which layers on the pressure for getting it right. Cue research!
Creating a town from scratch sounds like a blast. Maybe I should try it some time! And I never considered a town as a character. That's good. Thanks for that!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Kim,

This is great advice! And timely.

I'm almost through the first draft of a book in a new series which is set in a small seaside town. I've added some details from the little New Jersey town my family went to this summer. But I will definitely use your tips to make this town more interesting!

I love the cover and the excerpt of your new book! Would love to be in the drawing!

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

CatMom said...

LOVED your post, Kim! As a writer and reader, I actually prefer fictitious towns, and almost feel like a kid playing "make believe" as I'm creating one for my stories, LOL.

I do appreciate all your suggestions and ideas--I know I'll be re-reading this post.

Please enter me in your book drawing (and your cover is lovely).

And I must add that I was very happy to read that you have 3 cats in your household. Yes, I'll admit I've been called a "crazy cat lady" a few times *wink*.

Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

Meghan Carver said...

Great tips! I've just created a town for my new story. First time I've done that, and I love all the choices in making my own place. Thanks for a great post!

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kim! Thanks for the excellent points on how to create a fictional setting. Your town and book sound great!

I've used real and fictional towns in my Love Inspired Historicals. Fictional towns in the late 1800s require less research but that doesn't mean they're easy to build.

I've had fun naming two midwestern towns Peaceful, Indiana and New Harmony, Iowa. Not always peaceful, harmonious places for my hero and heroine, but of course they will be. :-)

Love your cover!


DebH said...

I love creating new places. I'd be worried about getting details wrong in a real place (unless I actually lived there). I enjoy doing map stuff too. If you give me your napkin/post-it/scrap paper scrawls, I could probably give you a nice looking map from it. I like doing that sort of thing. In fact, I've done it for a couple of friends who were writing stories and sent me their scribbles.

I like all the ideas in this post and the ideas in the comments. Very creative.

Oh, and I'd love to win a copy of your book, Kim. Hope the day job is going well for you today.

Glynna Kaye said...

I grew up in little towns, so have enjoyed creating fictional ones that are pieced together from places I've lived or visited.

Does anyone recognize the cute little rainy day intersection in the photo on Kim's post? I snapped it on a trip to New England a few years ago...

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Audra, I love that name of Hawk Ridge!!

My Austen series is set in Mississippi, near Oxford, but in a fictional series of towns. The first is Flea Bite Creek and the second is Thorny Hollow. There are real towns with those names, but they're in VA, MO, WI, and SC. I loved the names but there wasn't enough information online to really plan the books around the real towns, so I just stole the names and planted them both in MS, where I HAVE visited and know the lay of the land! :D

For my Denver series, it wasn't too hard. I was born there and still visit every few years. The Mission was based off a small mission where I volunteered in the winter of 1997. They've made some changes, but not too many, and the director was really happy to talk about their policies when I called, so I could make sure the characters didn't do anything that the mission wouldn't have allowed.

For my historical series, they're set in Chicago and San Francisco in 1908 and 1909. I think it would be so much easier for a historical author to make up a town because I KNEW that if I got a detail wrong, some history buff would know it! The research took forever!

Glynna Kaye said...

KIM -- I want to know more about this neurotic fish and the crazy snail... MY fish Skooter starred in my first book, "Dreaming of Home." A blue betta. Do your critters show up in any books?

Glynna Kaye said...

I love the names you all have created for your fictional towns!

Glynna Kaye said...

I'm sure Ruthy will agree with Mary that getting all the details to match when you're writing a series with other authors can be super tricky! When I wrote book #4 (Look-Alike Lawman) in last year's Love Inspired "Texas Twins" series we had to compare notes constantly on the town and the family home/ranch.

Glynna Kaye said...

VIRGINIA --I found your "Season of Hope" at Walmart a few weeks ago and have it in my to-be-read stack.

I love getting an early start on the holidays by beginning reading Christmas stories by early November! Just finished Ruthy's heartwarming "Red Kettle Christmas" in the two-for-one "In the City at Christmas" -- don't miss it!

Glynna Kaye said...

MISSY-- I know it sounds kind of crazy, but I've "drawn" town layouts and home 'blue prints' in EXCEL. With a little imagination and tweaking it does a great job of laying out the streets and buildings. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

NANCY C -- with stories that stretch forward in the same town from 1882 to 2012 you REALLY have to keep track of things!

Jenny Blake said...

I have to say in May (was it that long ago) seeing signs to real places used in tv shows and in books and even seeing real places was such a treat. Seeing a couple mentioned in NCIS and JAG really excited me.
But even some of the other places it was so cool to see what the area was like. Makes the book more real now.
Like the first time I saw a barn I was like oh wow they really do look like that. Im not sure why I didn't think they would be but here a barn/shed is not a pretty thing to look at most of the time its iron with 4 sides and a roof either flat or pitched but not pretty. and yours are so pretty.
even seeing things like a strip mall for the first time it helps me visualise it in a book now.

Debby Giusti said...


Great topic today! I use large cities, such as Atlanta, because I can add fictional spots without upsetting locals. However, I create my small towns and army posts.

Fort Rickman, featured in my Military Investigations series, is a mix between Fort Knox,KY, where I lived in my youth, and Fort Benning, GA, where my son was stationed. I "see" the post as Fort Knox with its red brick quarters, but the location and surrounding area is Fort Benning.

Thanks, Mary and Glynna, for the tip about using spread sheets for town maps. Perfect!

Christina said...

Since I always have trouble figuring out whether it's best to use a fictional town or a real setting, I found your post especially helpful. And just in time for the christmas novella I'm working on. Great info, Kim!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Kim, great to see you in Seekerville. Thanks Glynns for inviting Kim. I really love making up towns. Safer. Lol I love yours and Glynnas. Have fun today.

Chill N said...

MISSY - I still have the pencil drawings/sketches of my town maps, but I also made some I could read and share with beta readers using The Print Shop. I spent way to much time doing that but it was so much fun to color-key buildings and make the creek blue and the landscaped yards green and ... besides, I found myself thinking through plot points while I was doing the map :-)

Sidenote: if you're looking for basic ideas for towns, the sizes of buildings, businesses that would have been around at the time, how wide the streets were, the Sanborn Maps are great. You can find them at

Nancy C

Julie Lessman said...


VERY interesting post today, and one I will probably refer to in the future since I have a small town in mind for my next book. Up until now, my settings have been Boston and San Francisco, so I've had more research than imagination going on as far as the setting. BUT ... the fictitious-town scenario REALLLLY intrigues me, I have to say, especially the way you talked about creating yours.

Thanks for the tips, and your books sound WONDERFUL!!


Debby Giusti said...

Nancy, the Sanborn Map site was interesting. Who knew? I didn't. Thanks!

Kav said...

Oooh -- I love the idea of making a map of a fictional town! How fun would that be? And it would keep you from messing up directions or the time it takes to go from point A to point B.

As a reader I love reading about these make believe towns. They always seem to be the type of place I want to live in, but then I'd like a storybook life with a HEA too. :-)

Sherida Stewart said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Kim! I've used real and fictitious towns.....and I have a map of the setting of my next project which is a combination of the small towns I've lived in. Please enter me for your book.

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

This is a keeper, Kim.
Thank you.

So far, I've used real places (and just HAD to go research, don't you know!)...

But I'll surely reference this in the future. Please put my name in the hat! may at maythek9spy dot com

Glynna Kaye said...

JENNY! Really and truly in Australia you don't have big beautiful old wooden or stone barns? Interesting!

Glynna Kaye said...

Gee, Debby, I thought Fort Rickman was FOR REAL! I just SOUNDS real and you make it seem so real!

Glynna Kaye said...

NANCY C -- I'm going to keep that link to the Sanborn maps in my "favorites" -- if I knew those existed, I'd forgotten.

Walt Mussell said...

Great article!

I'm working on a story and I am vacillating on the town. I feel like I'm okay to use the actual county (and I need the story to be one of the four Atlanta counties), but can I create a mythical town inside a known county?

Walt Mussell said...

Yes, I'm in for the book. :-)

Glynna Kaye said...

WALT -- I've done that before -- a fictional town inside a real county. I think it would be fine.

Casey said...

I'm so torn on the whole debate to "create a town" or "use a real town" for my stories. I could truly go either way and have kind of adopted both for my latest book. I live in SUCH a small town, everyone will know if I don't get something right or purposefully change it, but I could make a small town much like my own town (like you were saying) and probably get away with a whole lot more fun in the process. ;-)

SEEKERVILLE I've missed you! I hope I don't get stuck in the corner for not visiting for so long. It's good to be back. :D

Janet Dean said...

Mary C, cool how you used Excel to map out the town in your anthology! I can imagine the potential for trouble with three writers telling stories in one town.


Janet Dean said...

Not sure, Glynna, but your photo reminds me of one of your book covers. Is it?


Kim Watters said...

Wow. I was busy at work today and didn't have time to check in and my goodness, what a response. I'm overwhelmed. 73 comments. I'm not sure I'll have time to respond to them all. Thanks so much for inviting me here today Glynna.

Okay, now I've read each and every comment and I'm stunned and thankful for all your comments. I wish I could respond to all of them, but I'm going to fail miserably because I'm tired and something is setting my allergies off. I've been through a half a box of tissue since I got home with the kids.

I'm glad my post helped a lot of you; if only to get you thinking. I will take some of your comments to heart while I'm working on my next book in Dynamite Creek.

Cara the snail's name is Teeny. We bought him at Petsmart. The irony is he isn't teeny anymore lol. PattiJo I have a black cat too, his name is Figaro. Or Piggy for short. And yes, my animals make it into my books sometimes. Glynna the reason they are neurotic and crazy is how would you feel if you had three cats staring at you all the time and thought of you as dinner. The hamster finally died from shock I think. LOL.

I'm so glad my words have inspired some of you to think of new ways to help create your fictitious towns.

I'm not sure this post is making any sense anymore so I'm going to grab my box of tissues and head off to dreamland.

Thanks for having me here today ladies. Glynna you were a great host. Wish I could say the same about that being a guest. Darned day job again.

Thanks again and if anyone else has any questions, Glynna has my e-mail and can forward any messages or questions that you night have. Blessings. Kim

Mary Preston said...

I enjoy reading about real & imagined towns. I know how much thought goes into this.

I would love a copy of A SEASON OF LOVE thank you.

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, CASEY! Good to see you!! And no, you won't get stuck in the corner. :) Welcome back!

Glynna Kaye said...

Janet--it WOULD make good cover wouldn't it? :) Actually it's a street in Kennebunkport, Maine. It rained in New England the entire week I was there to "leaf peep" but I still had a wonderful time.

Glynna Kaye said...

Thank you again for your thought-provoking post, KIM. I'm sorry the day job and allergies snarled you up. I hope you'll be feeling better soon!

Jackie McNutt said...

Kim, I am a reader but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading how you create Fictitious towns.
The towns in a novel always fascinate me as much as the story line and characters.
I love being drawn into a story that makes me wish I could live in some of these places! season For Love sounds like a good read
Thank You

Barbara Thompson said...

I'm a reader and it does not matter to me whether the town is real or not. I read the excerpt from your book and it's great. Looking forward to reading your book. Thank you for the chance of this giveaway and please enter my name.
Barbara Thompson

Kim Watters said...

Thanks Glynna. I feel much better today. It was all the stinky stuff in the store (candles, potpourri etc) that they brought in for Christmas sales that did me in. I'm much better today. :)

Thanks for stopping by Jackie and Barbara. I hope you enjoy A Season of Love as much as I enjoyed writing it.

karenk said...

A great posting, Kim...thanks for sharing :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

tracikenworth said...

I usually create my own towns and cities, even counties and mountains sometimes. Lol. I base them on an actual place, then use my imagination as you said.