The Anatomy of Creating A Small Town – Setting is Everything

Moraine_Lake_17092005A lot of care and research goes into creating a setting.This is where your characters live, where your characters were shaped as individuals. The environment dictates their temperaments and  values, and outlook on life.  In the case of my fictional town of Laurel Falls set in the beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, I wanted the name of the town to be strong symbolically.

I knew these stories were going to be about strong, hardy people. I wanted them to have hardships not only in their personal lives, but in their work and social lives. I also wanted a western themed place, cowboys, ranching, horses, rodeo, roping, branding, and hard work. So, I chose the State of Montana. With Montana there were plenty of choices and I narrowed it down to Yellowstone area and Glacier National Park in the Flathead Valley. I ultimately chose, Glacier after looking at the pictures of the park and the landscape simply sucked me in.

As a small town, Laurel Falls needed to have its own presence and personality. I knew what components I wanted to build this town. I wanted a waterfall. Water is one of the four main elements, a flowing, ever changing element. I wanted that symbol for this town’s name as the fluidity of the characters flowed around the setting. Into and out of the setting. Just like the beautiful push/pull of life. Water also symbolizes purity, healing, and cleansing.

imagesAlso a perfect fit for my town as there are tortured souls here, people in desperate need of healing and some cleansing. Letting go of their heavy burdens and finding true happiness. Some on a long journey back from recovery, taking them far away, then back to the warm arms of this small town. Back to home.

The second element was something that symbolizes Montana. I chose laurel which is often referred to as mountain laurel. These cluster of flowers are a clear shade of snowy white with dark pink accents or a single shade of pink.

Laurel flowers represent ambition as well as success and renown. They are often gifted to people who are heading into a new phase of their lives.

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They are meant to represent a wish for the recipient to push on with their lofty ambitions, despite any roadblocks they may encounter. This is a metaphor for most of my characters in the story. Changes are coming to Laurel Falls in the form of an heiress to a hotel fortune. She doesn’t even know she’s seeking something until she gets stranded there, stranded and experiences the slower pace, the wonderful warmth of the people, a simpler, basic, but richer life when she falls for one of its native sons.

writerworldThe best part about creating a new story is the research aspect of it and setting is one of my favorite things to do. It adds atmosphere, tone, description, details, and texture to the writer’s toolbox to use to enrich the story.

Laurel Falls, Montana, nestled in the Flathead Valley, set in a rich environment of rivers, forests, lakes, mountains, teeming with elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, along with bears, wolves, and mountain lions for a sense of danger.

A declining town that is losing it’s citizens in a slow spiral, but that is all about to change with one broken down, very expensive little blue British sports car.

Are you from a small town? What did you love about it or dislike. If you’re from the city, what small towns have you visited and did you enjoy the experience?

Here’s the cover and blurb for my first book in the Laurel Falls series, Leaving Yesterday:

Leaving Yesterday_DawsonIf you love Susan Mallery, Kristan Higgins, or Rachel Gibson, don’t miss the start of this captivating small-town romance series! Laurel Falls, Montana, features spectacular mountain scenery—but it takes a rugged cowboy to convince one woman to slow down and enjoy the view.
Rafferty Hamilton doesn’t plan on putting down roots anytime soon. With her divorce final, the hotel heiress has left Manhattan behind to scout new locations for her family’s chain of resorts. Which is why it’s so frustrating to be stranded in Laurel Falls while a good-looking, slow-talking, Stetson-wearing mechanic takes his sweet time with her overheated coupe.

A decorated vet who paid his dues in Afghanistan, Trace Black can fix anything with an engine and get it revving—even Rafferty’s ridiculous sports car. He’s couldn’t say the same for the knockout driver, who looks like she’s never gripped a gear shaft in her life. Women like Rafferty don’t usually stick around in Laurel Falls, but Trace finds himself showing her everything his hometown has to offer before she cruises on down the road.

As the days pass, Rafferty finds herself charmed by the pace of life and the openhearted warmth of the residents. She’s even tempted to trust again—and it’s all thanks to Trace. He’s not the kind of guy she’s used to falling for, but he just might be the man she needs.


Happy reading!


Upcoming releases:

Going to the Dogs 2: Piggy Bank Blues

Piggy Bank Book 1 SmlA penny saved is a penny earned.

Ian Lassiter is living the high life in Manhattan and loving it. He’s a successful artist and sculptor and has just adopted an adorable Mantle Great Dane named Ozzie from his sister, Callie. The bachelor life suits him, so he thinks until he gets a load of AlphaGroup’s newest client.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” O’Reilly is trying to save her art school for the deaf where she teaches. Thinking her clever Border Collie, Georgia who paints amazing huge abstract flowers could be commercial, she reads about grants available from AlphaGroup Investments that could help out. But, the guy she deals with, Ian, is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but he’s a renowned artist and touted as a confirmed bachelor. Lizzie comes from a big family and the man she gets involved with would have to embrace not only a happily ever after with her, but want kids as desperately as she does.

Ian just doesn’t fit the bill, or does he?

To Protect and Serve: Her Master Defender

9780373279395A battle-hardened marine and a driven NCIS agent join forces to survive…

Though survival training is Master Sergeant Tristan Michaels’s specialty, one of his students has been murdered. And sharing quarters with the ravishing NCIS agent sent to investigate is a challenge his expertise hasn’t prepared him for. Tristan has his reasons for distrusting NCIS agents, but Amber Dalton is stirring unwelcome feelings of a different kind…

Despite the fierce attraction between them, Amber is determined not to let it distract her from the mission. But when they’re captured by the killers, escape means combining forces and daring to survive freezing mountain terrain.

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4 Responses to The Anatomy of Creating A Small Town – Setting is Everything

  1. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi, Zoe,

    I love hearing about the care you put into picking a town name and how it relates to the characters and what they go through. Leaving Yesterday and all of Laurel Falls sounds (and looks!) amazing. Congratulations on all your upcoming releases!

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Zoe, I love all the images of the town, and the writers you mentioned are some of my favorites. I’m definitely buying this book!

    The other images are all great, too. And you know I love books with pets. Congrats on your releases!

    Note: I just checked, and Leaving Yesterday, a Laurel Canyon book is on pre-order for only $2.99! It will be out in January. I just pre-ordered it.

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