back to plot/story

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.

Mayfair's house
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.

Paradise 1824If 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.

15 Replies to “back to plot/story”

  1. I have heard and believe that advice about writers block so often. Do you think I can remember it when I’m staring at the computer screen thinking the dirty bathroom looks more appealing?

  2. Good luck with that scene.

    The cars and corpses analogy is interesting. It puts a whole new face (so to speak) on writer’s block.

  3. I keep hearing about The Stand as a good read. I think I’ll try it. I have the mini-series stuck in my head because I couldn’t stop watching it, even though it was aired during my honeymoon. Talk about compelling, oh wait – we did turn it off at some point. Been missing your blog while on a camping vacation with the family this past week – maybe a step into the garden will open up the writer’s block? Nature red in tooth and claw, and all that – but not in a dark tunnelly way.

  4. I remember what I was going to post now. Your comment about mistakes made me think of something I thought was a quote – can’t find the source right now. Maybe it’s a truism. Sometimes called a proverb: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” On the web, it’s used as anonymous advice, or attributed widely. It’s a cowboy saying on this website:

  5. Not quite the hole proverb, but in the years I was developing software, and, so, looking for bugs, a personal proverb of mine evolved. Maybe this fits. If the problem ain’t where you’re looking then it’s where you ain’t looking.

  6. Pam, I read The Stand twice, the first version at 800+ pages and then I bought the uncut version at 1300+ pages.

    After reading the 2nd uncut version I couldn’t imagine reading it without the 500 additional pages. It was my favorite book for years until Diana Gabaldon and Rosina entered my life (I didn’t like the movie though, but I’m weird like that).

    Rosina I remember that scene and I agree, I could only hope if presented with this obstacle that my man would be with me, since he is a lot braver than me and would feel compelled to jump right in.

    One of my favorite sayings is, “your way is obviously not working for you, so just try another, you never know” (something like that).

  7. Thanks for the tip Robyn – I knew it was a serious paper weight, but 1300? Sheesh. I think I’ll plan to read it during our long Canadian winter.

  8. Intriguing! Based on the earlier maps, Paradise has expanded south and east of the Wilde place. The new school house must be Daniel’s. A number of new names. I didn’t realize the Todd and Middleton places were uphill of Paradise.
    Two well houses for Mayfair? Is that a red herring? Where’s their outhouse?

    How do the Cunninghams and Oxley’s, etc. get to their properties?

    I LOVE maps.

  9. Well thank you for sharing all of this with us. Shame Anna had to die, tell me is Jemima coming back? Maybe I should read the map before asking these questions, but I’m curious when it comes to that little um vixen :D

    I’m stuck between not being able to stand the wait and glad for it simply because it means the story is not over yet. Can you make this one a huge book with lots of pages and small writing. Just so it can last longer.

  10. I love the visuals, especially the photo. I’ve always had this kind of sixth historical sense, if you will, where I can visit a place like that and really FEEL the people that used to live there, and part of that comes across even with a photo. What a great way to inspire your writing.

  11. This is so fascinating! I lvoe maps and the history of the places therein. I have to remin myself that this is fiction!

    Thank you for the tips and teasers!

  12. Thanks for the map. I’m another that loves them.
    It didn’t enlarge very well on my computer – is that an inn I see before me? Oh I imagine what fun and games will ensue from that, though I kind of liked it when people used to gather round Anna’s hearth for a drink and chat.
    I’m really pleased that the Mayfairs will have representation in Paradise. I really loved their characters in Queen of Swords and it will be good to keep up with what has been happening in their lives too.
    I still want to know more about what happened to Hawkeye. Please. If it’s possible.

  13. Now if you could provide a written inventory of all the contents in the Bonner household, that would be greatly appreciated. :) I’m sure you’ll get right on that.

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