Building a Fictional Town

by +AneMulligan @AneMulligan

Building a fictional town in a historical novel isn’t the easiest of tasks I’ve taken on, but it is fun. I prefer fictional towns to real ones, because nobody can tell me there was never a grocery store at the corner of Main and Peachtree. In face I’ve only written one novella set in a real town (a favor to the mayor of Sugar Hill).
I love to write stories about women’s friendships and how they navigate through life’s troubles together. Some make good decisions; some make bad ones. After the last book in my Chapel Springs series (Life in Chapel Springs, Sept 2017) was turned in, I decided to go back to a book I had started a few years ago.

Originally, I planned to set this in a town nearby me, Buford, GA. However, because of the very real Bona Allen Tannery, everyone who lived in Buford was employed and unscathed by the Great Depression. So I needed to go south, into the farm country, where since the Civil Way, life had been hardscrabble for farmers.

With the blessing of my agent (since like Chapel Springs, this series has an ensemble cast of strong women surviving the Great Depression), I went back to a story I’d started and fallen in love with.

I had my characters for the first book, In High Cotton, and the basic plot outline (I’m a planster). Now, I started on the town. I knew the it was in a very rural farm area in south Georgia. I researched the area, found as many photos as I could. Then I researched what stores would likely be in a tiny hamlet. I found an area where three rivers meet (or two meet and form the third). It was perfect. In the middle of nowhere, I named the town Rivers End.

I came up with the grocery (owned by the main character, Maggie Parker), the dry goods store, a feed & seed, a barber shop, a gas station, a tiny weekly newspaper, a Post Office, a saloon, a small movie house, 2 boarding houses, a school/church/courthouse, and the small train station, and of course the jail.

I drew a map so I could keep track of where things are. But I’m a visual writer. I need to see it so I can draw my readers into the town. That’s when it got tough. I have such a strong visual image in my head, trying to find a photo that fits it is really hard.

Undaunted, I searched several ways. Finally, I came up with 9 photos that if I take parts from one, a “feeling” from another and this building and that one, I can paste my town together. One of those and my map are scattered through out this post. Since most of my storeowners live in an apartment above their store, I didn’t want 3 or 4 story buildings. Two stories would do, thank you very much.


I drew a map so I could keep track of where things are.~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Ane Mulligan
 is the former president of Novel Rocket. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, chef son, and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.