Name That Town

I’ve decided to change the name of the town in Mystery series. Originally, it was named after my hometown. That’s the actual setting. But after killing off quiet a few characters and causing others to partake in questionable activities, I should probably change the town name.

I want something memorable and Southern. Easy to remember is a must.

About the town:

  • small, less than 6,000 people
  • on the banks of various creeks and bayous. All are part of the Mobile River Delta
  • At one time, a large Satsuma grove gave the town it’s real name (Satsuma).
  • The local wildlife includes: deer, bears, alligators, and many small mammals
  • Until the last few years there were only mom and pop stores and two stop lights
  • at last count 6 Christian churches, maybe more
  • Seasonal activities include: Swamp Fest (yes, that’s a real thing.), holiday parades, Fall Festival

If you have a better name, please respond in comments.


Name that Town…

What do these locations have in common?

  • Narnia
  • The Shire
  • Neverland
  • Panem
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Rivendell
  • Avonlea
  • 100 Acre Wood

Give up? No, of course not. These are well known locations in famous literary works. Places that conjure up memories just from the mention of the name. You know what it looks like and who lives there. If asked you could probably describe what it looks like. As a writer, the ability of a reader to form a connection with the setting/location is ….a dream. It’s more common for connections to be made with the characters. But sometimes the location is so vivid and so much part of the story that the reader forms a connection.

If I could book a plane ticket to The Shire, Narnia, or Hogwarts- I’d do it in a heartbeat. Not so much Panem. You get the point.

There are “real world” examples as well. If I mention:

  • Roswell
  • Salem
  • New Orleans

You’re mind forms an image. In Geography class we call that place. That image is based on photos you have seen or events you have heard about. Or maybe you’ve actually been there. I’ve never been to Roswell or Salem, but I know enough about those two cities to be dangerous! As writers, we fill in the blanks.

When we plot our stories, we have to decide on a location. Real or imagined. We have to define the geography and populate it with people that has a history and culture. I think it’s easier if you just make the whole thing up. No one knows if you get it wrong and there’s no angry emails about misrepresenting their town. But once created, you have to name it. Or maybe the name comes first…

Here is a list of real places that scream to be placed in a story:

  • Burnt Corn Creek (Alabama)
  • Dog Town (Alabama)
  • De Funiak Springs (Florida) This is my personal favorite.
  • Sulpher (Louisiana) I’ve been here. Two guesses on what it smells like.
  • Deadman Reach (Arkansas) You know you want to write a paranormal set there.
  • Nothing (Alaska)
  • Poopout Hill (California) Hmmmm.
  • Skeleton Creek (Idaho) Who’s up for Trick-or-treating here?
  • Roachtown (Illinois) Ummm, no thank you.
  • Big Lick (Kentucky)- Kentucky has a lot of Lick’s!

If you want to read more unusual names click here.  Word of warning, some of the comments are a tad… off. It makes you wonder what the founders of these towns were thinking.

What’s your favorite fictional/real location?


Plotting 101, part 2

Plotting 101

Now, that you have characters and an idea, what do you do?
Protagonist: Bubba Strong
Antagonist: Rex King
Idea: Bubba Strong steals the Mardi Gras beads of power from the Krewe de Vile to protect us from world domination by the evil mastermind Rex King.

Create your world.

I’m not talking about the type used in Fantasy. Just the basics of what is necessary for your story. Some of this will be done as you actually write, but you need an idea before you start. Set the scene of your tale.
Obviously, my story has to do with Mardi Gras, that limits me to the American Gulf Coast. Mainly, either Mobile or New Orleans. There are other, smaller Mardi Gras celebrations, but we want a bigger one. I also know that Mardi Gras is a moving holiday, it changes from year to year depending on Easter. But it is always in late winter, January -February.
From here I would build my background with information about Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras societies and their traditions. Most of this may not make it to the story, but it is necessary to add texture.
For instance, Mardi Gras parades are held at night and on weekends during the day. The Revelers, the people on the floats, wear masks. They also wear masks at the ball. These societies are supposed to be secret. (It’s not, you know how secrets are.)

Before you start writing, decide on the setting. Where is it written? What time period? What season?

These seem like silly questions, but if you write a Mardi Gras tale and place it during the height of summer, you didn’t do your research.
Most geographical areas have little quirks unique to the area. Bring a few of those into the story. It adds another level of believability. Add local drinks, food, or locations. Use it like seasoning, just enough to add flavor, you don’t want to overdo it.

Location, Location, Location

A few things to ask about location:

1. What does it smell like? Look, every place smells. Bourbon Street smells different than Madison Ave.

2. Are there small parks dotted around the city? Is there a large body of water nearby?

3. Are there many one way streets?

4. Is it a small, rural town or a large, urban city?

5. Does it snow? Does it rain often? Do the leaves on trees actually change color?
These are the types of questions that make the story feel real. Let’s see how it affects Bubba.

Bubba navigated the maze of one way streets and parked in the overpriced lot on Royal. He pushed his way through the excited crowd, he ducked just in time for a large woman to lean over and snatch a moon pie out of the air. The thump of the drum section bounced through his limbs. The night was unusually cool, small puffs of air rose from the masses as they exhaled. He quickly ran up the steps to the hotel and followed the sound of the music. As he threw open the doors, luck walked out toward the parade. Everyone in the room was wearing the same tuxedo and a mask. How was he going to find Rex?


What’s your favorite location to use, when writing?


Lay of the Land- Setting

Setting, scenery, location.  It’s all the same thing.  Simply put, it’s where your story takes place.  Setting has been a hot topic online this week.  Which lead me to think about the stories I write and the location I use.  Most of my stories take place in bayous.  It’s not a matter of writing what I know.  OK it is a little, I grew up near the bayous.  Heck, most of my county seems to be near a wetland, reclaimed or otherwise.  But that’s not why I write about wetlands.  I love wetlands.  They are primordial and full of unseen magic.  Swamps and bayous are the perfect place to dispose of that body or meet a sinister fellow.  It lends itself well to dark stories, fantastical tales, or a little romance.  How many areas can one claim an apex predator is living in their backyard?  Humans don’t count.  Basically, I love a good swamp.

Currently, I’m writing a series of short stories all set in the bayous of lower Alabama.  Doing so, I have needed to indulge in a little research.  For one what is a wetland?  What’s the difference between a bayou and a swamp?  Like pornography, I know it when I see it.  But I wanted something a little more academic.  So here we go.  (Different agencies have somewhat different definitions)

  • Wetland– basically anywhere land touches water.  That includes the marshes, swamps, and bogs.  Not entirely sure if the beach counts as a wetland, but it’s related to them. 

    Orange Beach

    Orange Beach

  • Swamp- water saturated area with vegetation floating on the surface, usually in a forested area. Photo taken by Tammy Sue.

    photo by Tammy Sue

    Very large beautiful swamp cypress trees located at Banks Lake GA.

  • Marsh– watery area with many tall grasses and some shrubs, no trees.  Can you see the gator in the grass?  That sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.



  • bayou-open waterways with a current but look like a swamp (I had to look this on up online, no definition was in my books) basically, it’s a swamp with a small waterway running through it.  Real swamps have no current.

Is that clear as mud?

What’s your favorite setting?  Is it real or imagined?