Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When Book Characters Live in Real Towns

If you’ve read my first novel, No Mother of Mine, you know that the protagonist, Jorja (say “Georgia”) resides in a small town in Washington called Tenino (say “T-9-0”).  What you may not know, depending on what part of the country or the world you reside, is that Tenino is a very real town.
Many authors might choose to base their story in a fictional town because it’s just much easier.  There are more pros than cons, with the biggest pro being that you get to use your imagination when developing the town, the streets, the shops and no one can take offense because you’re not comparing your fictional world to that of a real one.

When it comes to using a real town, it’s a mix of pros and cons.  The pros involve letting locals feel more involved with the story and the characters because they know the locations discussed in the book.  The con, of course, is that you might be limited with your imagination when it comes to where shops can be located and those who know the area will be easy to critique or criticize should you draw them a mental map of the town that just doesn’t quite make sense.
So why did I choose a real town?  There are a few reasons…

I felt, in a way, that I might be able to give something back to the community I grew up in by letting others know, even in a fictional setting, just how wonderful the small town of Tenino really is.  A great place to live, raise your children and, after venturing out in the world to experience life-changing events, a great place to live during retirement. 
I also liked the idea of writing a book full of small-town characters.  You can find colorful characters where ever you live but small-town characters give me more to work with.  In a small town, it can be exasperating how everyone knows everyone else and their business but it makes a great place to solve a mystery.  How else can an amateur sleuth solve the mystery if not for those residents with useful tidbits of information who haphazardly toss them aside like bread crumbs for the sleuth to take advantage of?

Finally, I prefer the cozy setting of a small town and it’s much easier to write about a location you are familiar with and knowledgeable about.  Of course, the shops in my book are fictional even though they may be located where a real version is actually situated (I’m working on a visual map to help readers).  That’s just all part of the fun.
While only small bits of the town and its surroundings are mentioned in the series so far, I will share more of it with you as the series continues.  Some of it I will share here on my Blog in more detail, I think, as there is just not enough room in my novels to give real attention to what I find most dear about Tenino and its history, as well as the surrounding cities. 

In the meantime, if you find you have a free afternoon on any given Saturday, you might want to plan a little road trip to Tenino.  Do you like to shop for local produce?  Need any plants or decorative items for your garden?  Do you enjoy hunting for special finds at antique shops?  How about lunch or a relaxing visit as you enjoy a nice glass of wine?  If you do make the trip, start with the local farmers market next to the elementary as you come into town from the North.  Then check out the antique shops in the historical section of town (smack in the middle of town) and plan to set aside enough time to scour the many, many antiques just waiting for you to take them home.  A few doors down from the antique shops you can grab a tasty treat at Aunt Kate’s Chocolates and then head across the street to visit Scatter Creek Winery for a nice bottle of wine to take home with you.  Need a gift?  You'll find plenty of ideas at the wine shop where other goods from local vendors are also available.  Before heading home, don’t forget to visit Donna’s Eco-Scapes just a few doors down from the wine shop where you will not only find great plants and planting ideas but also some nice metal art for your garden. 
But wait...there's more!  If you’d like to visit a few attractions just outside of town, check out Wolf Haven…located on Offut Lake Road just to the North of Tenino, it is a must see if you love animal conservations.  If nothing else, make sure to check out their website...the wolves are absolutely beautiful.  Any plans during Father’s Day weekend?  You might want to take part in the Father’s Day fishing derby at Offut Lake Resort from June 14th through the 16th.  Or maybe you prefer noise over quiet and would enjoy watching the races.  If that's the case, head West out of Tenino to locate  South Sound Speedway, the "fastest 3/8ths mile on the West Coast!"

Whatever interests you, I hope you visit the area soon so that you can see for yourself why I chose to let Jorja and the other characters in my books reside in such a town as Tenino.


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