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Guest Post by Cindy Ervin Huff
There are a few interesting factoids I’ve learned while writing and researching my stories. I’ll share a few things about setting that I found both interesting and surprising.
I am directionally challenged. If you tell me go west, then turn south my eyes roll back in my head. I need landmarks and left/right directions, and even then it can be iffy. Writing a novel in the town I live in suffered from my affliction. I needed my husband to help me rewrite scenes for New Duet to get the placement of setting correct. He can go somewhere once and still remember how to get there.
Directions are just one piece of the setting that is very important to get right in novels. People from the area may read your book just because of the setting, and if you mess it up, they are disappointed. I read a novel set in the town I went to high school in. This best-selling author crafted a wonderful story, but the details of the setting were so off. She must have relied on maps and never visited the town. It ruined the story for me.
In my first historical romance novel, Secrets & Charades, I named my fictitious towns off the top of my head. I submitted the manuscript to a contest and had judges telling me the towns were in different areas of Texas. I guess my subconscious mind chose names of real towns. After much research, I finally found two names that didn’t exist as towns in Texas. I named the hero’s town after one of my favorite Golden Age actors, Charleton Heston. So Charleton, Texas passed muster. I researched ghost towns for the brief mention of the town in Missouri my heroine came from.
I also made sure the church in New Duet that would be closing did not exist in Aurora. That kind of plot twist could offend a congregation.
Some publishers are very picky about using well-known branded names such as Cubs, Red Lobster, or Panera’s. There can be copyright issues. And if a crime is committed in McDonalds or Target you might have a lawsuit.
Most privately-owned businesses don’t mind. They love the idea of their shop being a location in a book. C Hope Clark has a whole series of murder mysteries set on Edisto Island. The residents love it. Knowing what the publisher expects and asking for permission ahead of time saves the headache of going through your manuscript and changing the names of restaurants to something made up.
Even if you create a fake town be sure the saloon or restaurant is always located in the same area of town. Draw a visual for yourself to keep it straight. Even a two-street tiny town can be confusing to readers if the mine is south of town in chapter one and north of town in chapter sixteen. And it is lots easier to do than you would suspect.
Double check setting details before you submit, and your future editors will thank you.
Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer and her debut novel Secret’s and Charades won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2014 and placed third in the Maxwell Awards in 2017. Her contemporary romance New Duet released in May 2018. She has been featured in numerous periodicals over the last thirty years. Cindy is a member of ACFW and founding member of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. Although she has been creating stories in her head since childhood it wasn’t until high school those imaginary characters began appearing on paper. After raising her family, she began her novel writing adventures. Cindy loves to encourage new writers on their journey. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. They have five children and six grandchildren. Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on twitter @CindyErvinHuff, or check out her blog at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.
Amazon Buy link for Secrets & Charades: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016144
Amazon Buy link for New Duet: https://www.amazon.com/New-Duet-Cindy-Ervin-Huff-ebook/dp/B07CRV46PQ
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.