Sunday, August 21, 2016

Three Steps to Creating a Contemporary Setting for your Novel

World Building - Creating Fictional Communities

Red fisheries sheds, Tancook Island
Writers can be inspired by characters or an event, but as the story evolves the characters need a place to live. Setting is a character is it's own right and often dictates direction in the story. Some writers set books in real places. In a large city, this works. However, using a smaller, limited population creates privacy issues and limits events. The solution is to create a fictional community to showcase the story. Caleb's Cove in the Caleb Cove Mystery series is a created community inspired by three real-life geographical locations.

Although a contemporary setting is easier to create than a fantasy world, it's still necessary to define geography, to understand and remember the residents' philosophy and to know who in "town" your characters can trust.

To create your fictional, contemporary world:

Brainstorm what type of community you want.

  • Do you want a large place or a cozy, hamlet? 
  • Will you locate it on the ocean's edge or the prairie's bold sweeping field?
  • Canada has been settled by varied ethnic groups over the years. 
  • What is the origin of the community? Has the town grown from the WW11 interment camps in Canada? Or did its settlers arrive in the 1700s?
  • Is a second language spoken in the area you are creating?
  • What about the geography, the buildings, the occupations in your newly created town?

Find towns and locations that have your wanted ingredients.

  • You do not have to take a whole town,  you can choose elements and relocate them to wherever you like in your town. I found elements in a number of places and combined them to create Caleb's Cove, set on Dane's islands off Nova Scotia's South Shore. following are some of those places. 
  • Several real locations provided inspiration, visuals and ambiance for Caleb's Cove. However, all people and story events are products of my writer's imagination and other than the awesome ocean setting, bear no connection to any real person in the three background communities.

Create your town, describe it, download pictures and draw a map of the areas in your book.

TANCOOK ISLANDS, Nova Scotia, Canada 

Tancook Island started it all. I've had a fascination with Tancook for decades. My sister-in-law's mother worked on Little Tancook and I loved her stories and the name. At eight I thought it a great setting for a mystery and wrote (longhand in a Hilary Scribbler) The Mystery on Tancook Island.

Accidentally, or at the bidding of  my unconscious, my mystery series is set on an island off Nova Scotia. Additional details and ideas for Caleb's Cove came from Tancook and two other Nova Scotia locations. (For more on Nova Scotia visit:


What is know as Bell island today is actually three older islands that were combined when the road through the LaHave Islands was built. The road now joins Jenkin's Island, LaHave Island and Bell's Island into one large island know collectively as Bell Island.


  • Caleb's Cove is on a fictional set of islands modeled on current day Bell Island. Bridges join the three separate parts and the main fictional island is larger than the real one.
  • The hamlet and various buildings and stores are based on Petite Riviere along the 331 and Fisherman's Wharf located in Eastern Passage, back of Dartmouth.


  1. You do an excellent job for the setting of your novel. It's like the reader is right there. The outskirts of Calgary inspire my stories and Calgary itself inspires my novels. Sometimes I see and read something like the Lost Lemon Mine somewhere in the Crowsnest and it's so fascinating I need to write about it.

  2. I agree with Mary - You do an excellent job of creating settings. And you have great tips! Thanks Mahrie :)