Wicked Wednesday- Knowing Your Way Around Town

We’ve been talking craft all month on Wicked Wednesdays. This week we’re chiming in about how we keep track of the towns in our series. How do you road map an imaginary place? Remember which stores are on Main Street? So Wickeds, how do you keep it all straight from book to book?

 Jessie: I use Scrivener. It very conveniently has a places category and I import all the places from the previous book into the next one as soon as I create a new file. Then I add any new places to the existing database as I go along.

Map by Phyllis Ann Whippen
Map by Phyllis Ann Whippen

Edith: So far I have used either fictionalized real towns (Ipswich in the Lauren Rousseau mysteries, West Newbury in the Local Foods mysteries) or a real town (Amesbury, in my historical mystery) in my fiction. But when I fictionalize a real place, I add made-up streets and businesses. So far I’ve been able to keep the made-up stuff in my memory, but using Scrivener’s system for a Places folder is a great idea. In my new WIP, however, I created a fictional small town, so drawing myself a map would be a good idea. On the to-do list!

Lea Wait's Wiscasset, Maine from her children's books. Learn more here.http://www.leawait.com/children.html
Lea Wait’s Wiscasset, Maine from her children’s books. Learn more here. http://www.leawait.com/children.html

Barb: My Busman’s Harbor turns out to be a pretty complicated place. It’s a town, and a harbor, two points of land that surround the harbor, a private island and a penninsula that leads from Route One, the main artery of the Maine coast down to Busman’s. As the books have developed, we’ve found out where more and more of the characters live and work. Like Jessie, I’ve kept Scrivener files of all the important places I’ve described– the houses, boats, town pier, marina, shops and hospital. Like Edith, I’ve modeled it on a real town–Boothbay Harbor, Maine. But I’ve made so many modifications and described so many fictional places, if I do get a contract for more books, I think it is time for a map. As an aside–I love, love fictional books with maps in them. Deborah Crombie’s are a particular favorite.

afbchurchSherry: Tagged for Death has two main locations. They are based on fictional versions of Bedford, Massachusetts and Hanscom Air Force Base. Even though I have a good idea  of how the town of Ellington, Massachusetts and Fitch Air Force Base look, I’ve made crude (very crude) drawings of each. I also keep extensive notes about what is where for both. It’s been a lot of fun to use two places I loved living in the series.

Liz: All of the above! I use Scrivener too, and my town, Frog Ledge, is fictional but based on a hybrid of two towns near me. I have a good picture in my mind of how it looks, but like Barb, I think I might need a map…

Julie: My town is based on two different towns. I am keeping place notes, but already feel the need for a map, which I will do before the next book is done. Things like “how long does it take to go from the shop to the lake?”  need to be consistent, and make sense. Anyone have any good map making ideas? Maybe we should create a wicked cozy map of New England?

Edith: I love the idea of a Wicked Cozy map, Julie!

Readers: Do you like maps in a work of fiction? Would you prefer to read about a real place, so you can go and trace the steps of our ficitonal protagonists, or do you prefer to read the fictional towns we and other authors make up?

19 Thoughts

  1. I like both made up and real towns. I love maps in books. I can remember the really old paperbacks that always had maps – of towns, of houses, although I guess you couldn’t call the houses a map, could you?

    1. Hi Gram. As I said, I love the maps in Deborah Crombie’s books. When I went to the signing for Attica Locke’s excellent, “The Cutting Season,” I opened her book and there was a map by the same artist. When Attica signed my book, I was gushing about the map. She was looking at me like I was a crazy person.

  2. I vote for the Wicked Cozy map! Surely someone has a graphic artist friend (hire local artists!) who could make one for you all. And then you could do bookmarks and postcards…
    I am good at spending other people’s money. 🙂

    1. Brenda Erickson, the artist who did Lea Wait’s map above is the same woman who did the banner on my website. Just sayin’.

  3. I used to love the Golden Age English mysteries which included a map, a floorplan of the manor house, and a list of who was who (I think Gin Malliet still does that).

    I make it easy on myself by using real places that I know. It’s hard to remodel Center City Philadelphia, and the village of Leap in Co. Cork has only one main road–and I still get lost in the country lanes. Granford in the Orchard Mysteries is also based on a real town, but now and then I add a hill or move a highway a little closer to the scene of the action. I cannot imagine inventing a place from scratch!

  4. I love maps and was thrilled when my editor on my non-mystery historical novels (w/a Kate Emerson) actually volunteered to include them. For the Liss MacCrimmon mysteries I have a large street map of my fictional Moosetookalook, Maine on graph paper in pencil thumb tacked to the back of my office door. I keep killing off shopkeepers on the town square, so the names of the shops keep changing! I’m low tech, so descriptions of houses, shops, the hotel, the municipal building and so on are pages in a loose leaf notebook under “setting.” I also draw floor plans, often so I can figure out what my characters see when they look out a particular window. Lots of nosy neighbors in a small town!


  5. I liked this discussion. I am using a real place and while I have been changing names or making up shops and all, I hadn’t decided on what to do about streets. I like the idea of a mix of real ones but also need to move a few things – which I plan to do. I have an old fashioned bulletin board with pictures and a map of my downtown. But I also use Scrivener for keeping up with all the details. Carolyn

    1. Carolyn–You’re reminding me, for my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, I had a map on my bulletin board of the crime scene for years.

  6. I don’t need maps in books. But I do need to feel like the author is being consistent with their setting. I may not always remember details from book to book (depending on how long it is between books), but as a series progresses and I get to really know the town, I will start to notice if authors aren’t consistent without a good explanation (development in town is one that springs to mind).

  7. I love maps in books. I haven’t read every author in this post but I’m inspired to check out Edith’s now. Place is always important to me when I read.

  8. So funny. While I’m thinking I need a map for my WIP, I NEVER look at maps in books. I want to invent the town in my head. I feel like it’s cheating or something to look at the map before I read the book, or even if I’m confused about it.

  9. I created a map for my fictional town. It was fun and helpful. I’m not a map person, either, but I didn’t want my characters getting lost (or my readers.)

  10. Interesting all the shout outs for Scrivener. I use it too. Both for my latest series (based in Marathon, FL – a very real place) and my first series (based in Summer Hill, FL – a creature of my imagination. I also did a map for Summer Hill, nothing as detailed as what I see here. It helped tremendously. I remember that Martha Grimes used to use maps of the towns as front pieces, I loved those maps and even referred to them as I read the books.

  11. In my first book, I created a fictional town, lake, and camp based and set on top of a real one. I drew a map of the camp, which helps immensely in getting people around. For offsite travels, I have actual maps and routes in my research area (in Scrivener!).

    I’m using a real location for the second one, although I may have to get permission from the University to continue this way or else create a fictional one (very difficult to do because it’s so well known and the location is difficult to disguise). Real maps are helpful, but the setting is almost 40 years ago — much has changed. My memory is still strong on most of the original layout, although.I at one point I realized I had the library in its current location and had to revise several scenes.

  12. Sorry, hadn’t finished…I *love* the idea of a Wicked New England Map! Now, can you just scout out and easy-to-use map-creating software tool that isn’t too hard on the budget…

    If anyone can, it’s the Wickeds!

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