Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fictional World Building

How to build a fictional world?

1) Ask your characters what type of community they want.
2) Find inspiration in places with ingredients your character likes.
3) People the world with family, friends and enemies.
4) Provide jobs on main street; homes on side streets; add beaches, parks or bowling allies as required
5) Draw a map of the village or town.

For Caleb's Cove, I looked to Nova Scotia's south shore islands, ocean-side markets and beaches. I sprinkled in hurricanes, boats, history and ghosts.

 Inspiration #1 - Greater TANCOOK ISLAND, Nova Scotia


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 Came Home Dead and Came Home to A Killing is a created community inspired by three real-life geographical locations including TANCOOK ISLAND.

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.

Inspiration # 1 - Tancook Island, Nova Scotia, Canada 

Three 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.

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 first published novel 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. To follow Tancook Island on FB for some great ocean shots, go to: Tancook Island on FB
For more on Nova Scotia visit: Nova Scotia's South Shore.

Sweeping his gaze from left to right Greg checked the altered sandy strip, the docks and the rocky protrusions. The waves still arched and crested against the land, splashing through gaps in the boardwalk and sucking back to display the damage. In the harbor beyond, white caps revealed the sea’s continued turmoil. The rhythmic roar and whoosh was primal. He’d wait for calmer seas before launching the dory even if she was designed for rough waters. And you? What are you waiting for?
Tancook Island-dock in winter

Came Home Dead 

Readers, what location would you like to see in a book? 
Writers, what location inspired a book setting for you?


  1. Hi Mahrie, Having spent some time in Halifax and area, I could easily visualize the setting when I read Katya Binks Came Home from Away. For my own books, I use familiar settings, mainly in Ontario. But I also like to throw in some of my favorite vacation destinations. In Between Land and Sea, Barbara (the protagonists) spends a weekend in Chicago. In the sequel, The Coming of Arabella, Barbara flees to Sedona to sort out her life. Joanne :)

    1. Yes - I could relate to your settings in Between Land and Sea having lived in Ontario. I've never been to Chicago but you captured a city feeling in your scenes there. When is the sequel coming out?

    2. The Coming of Arabella is scheduled for a summer release.

  2. Very interesting. I must visit that island. I am mainly inspired by the Canadian West - Alberta and Saskatchewan as a writer. As a reader I like reading about places like your island - and little known settings. It's almost as good as travelling at times.

    1. Mary, your books do capture the Canadian West quite well. Although my love is to write about the east coast, like you I enjoy books set in other locations.

  3. What a great setting you picked. I must go see that Island. As a writer - I set my stories in mainly Alberta, Saskatchewan - the Canadian West. As a reader - I love reading about little known settings and yours falls into that category.

  4. If you want to go to Tancook Island - you'd better know if you get sea sick or not. If so, get the gravol. My Hubby gets sea sick very easily, so this last trip we didn't get out to the island as it's a medium sized boat and lots of rolling sea to get there.

  5. I set my first novel in San Jose (I used to live there). And the town in my most recent release is based on my hometown, but I changed so much of the town and the people I'm sure no one even noticed!

    1. Hi Quanie - thanks for stopping by. Yes - what we know makes creating locations, setting, buildings much easier to remember. But I know what you mean - changing it up is a good idea. One good thing is that so many villages have commonalities as do small towns. My books are a series so I have to keep it all straight from one title to the next.

  6. I really like the article very well. I do follow each and every post in the blog with great curiosity as each post come up with a relevant topic. Thanks for sharing the best article with us! Keep sharing. Looking for more updates!

  7. Thanks Tabitha, but I teach writing myself and have 40 years of writing experience.

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