Oh, the joy!!! In Part I, I introduced the Big Boom. That moment when an author realizes they have an original idea, based on a situation. I also presented how intimately we, as authors get to know our characters. What are they like, what do they do in their spare time? Who do they hang out with? What concerts do they like to go to? Basically, what do an author's characters do when they're not the marionette on a string doing everything the author says to do? In addition, what things do they do in the middle of a scene that the author just sort of skips over (because it's not pertinent to the story he or she is telling)? Yes, Virginia, the characters do have lives outside the pages of the author's story.
It's to this level that we, as authors develop our characters. One of my main characters in The Ghost Between Us is Alex, a successful realtor in Sevier County, Tennessee. Most of her business comes from referrals. Two weeks ago, I took my first business trip as an author. Where else would I go on my first trip, then Sevier County, Tennessee. I had a wonderful time meeting people there, like Lisa at A Long Story Short Company in the Old Mill district of Pigeon Forge. I met Deanne at Our Place in Cosby. My purpose was to market the book in the region that the book is set. Recognizing that the book has more potential to thrive in Sevier County than it does here in Indianapolis, my wife and I seriously discussed moving there. My first thought? You got it, maybe I'll meet with Alex the next time I'm down there. Inevitably, my wife is going to read this and state something she has many times in the past. "Honey, there are certain things you just don't share."
In this entry, I want to talk about the setting for the story. The Great Smoky Mountains and Sevier County, TN are some of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. The Ghost Between Us was my first fiction story, so I kept my imagination under control to some extent. I created fictional characters that lived in a real place. A place I've been and can describe to you in a way that you will see it in your mind. You'll feel the breeze at Morton's Overlook and hear a distant bird's call during a cool mountain sunrise. My other main character is Toby. He just bought a house in Sevier County, TN. The description of his house is not just realistic, it's a real place. It was, anyway. Unfortunately, it burned down--twice. Once in 2014 which took almost a year to rebuild, and again when the fires on The Chimney Tops met eighty-mile-per-hour winds in November of 2016.
Most of the story takes place on Toby's property. I've never seen his property and it's not based on a real piece of land. The location doesn't exist at all, but the house did prior to 2016. I took that house that my wife and I stayed in on vacation and put it twenty miles away off an access road along 321. The parts of the story that aren't in Toby's house, or property are set along the streets of Gatlinburg and in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When I, as an author took my readers out to Toby's porch one night, the humidity was so high, it caused drips on the windows. The cicadas and crickets were like a choir.
Every detail of his house and property, I wrote from a blue and white chair in the corner of my living room in Indianapolis, IN. What I couldn't remember from pictures, I created from my imagination. How fun it is to play make-believe! It's also exhausting, because when writing about fictitious people and fictitious events, an author has twice as much to remember. First, we have to recall the memory's of places that exist then imagine the details of a make-believe that we create so that the two can be joined together seamlessly.
Part of my journey was going there (in my mind) every time I wrote. The place became so real, when I went on my business trip and drove out 321 to Cosby, I looked on the right side of the highway to find Toby's access road.
If you're ever talking to an author and sharing stories, take note of when they take a deep breath as if going to tell a similar story, then sigh and drop their shoulders. In that moment, they were about to tell you about a time that--"Never mind; that was in my fiction story."