As the basic conflicts that are going to drive book six evolve, I depend on a lot of visual cues to jog my imagination. Some of these are standards I’ve used for all the books (such as a map of the village of Paradise); some are photos of the setting, buildings, plants, animals. I especially like reading newspapers from the right month and year because that really puts me in the right mind to tell the story.
Every book is different than the one before, so I have to make changes and additions to my reference materials. A case in point is the village map.
You may remember that in Queen of Swords Hannah gets a letter from home that describes the changes in the village, all Ethan’s doing. He has recruited people to come and live in Paradise, farmers and craftspeople. And all of them are Quaker, because as Curiosity puts it, there’s not many people in this world would put up with our strange ways, but Quakers might could.
I’m not going to introduce ten or twenty new major characters, but you will see the new residents coming and going. And one family does have a major role to play. So I had to pay special attention to how they would fit into the village — or how they changed it. This involved a lot of mooning over the map, thinking about crops (corn, flax, vegetables), hunting, and the gradual shift in the economy from trade-based to currency based.
There are three people in the Mayfair family that will be involved in book six, and that required a lot more thought as well. These are well to do Quakers, very industrious. Mr. Mayfair bought out the trading post when Anna McGarrity died and Jed moved in with his daughter. The Mayfairs built a house like the one they had in Massachusetts and have set up their outbuildings, pastures and fields in a way that reminds Elizabeth of England.
If you click on this map, you’ll get the full size of the Paradise map as it currently exists. Except I’ve thrown in a few red herrings.
If you think of plotting a novel as if it were conducted on a giant gameboard, you’d add three more markers for these three new characters. And once you’ve got them situated, you watch them move around. I know basically what’s happening with them and who/why they are interacting with, but that I’ll keep to myself.