Friday, June 13, 2014

Bishop Hill as a Character

When I began planning my first novel, that is, when it started to have more substance other than a dream, I had three things on my agenda: use my art background, write a mystery, and have Bishop Hill as a character. 

My art background began to develop in the sixth grade after a teacher encouraged me to do more with the pencil sketches I’d entered in a school art show. I’ve stayed with art as a career choice through several permutations. So, that was a no-brainer.

Several sources recommended writing a mystery for a first book as a lesson in plotting. Good advice, since I have this tendency to dump too much information on the reader way too soon. It’s an ongoing struggle to pace things out. So attempting a mystery was definitely a good deal for me.

Dealing with the last item on my list was more difficult. Bishop Hill and its history has been the subject of any number of scholarly books and articles. A few writers have used Bishop Hill as a setting for mysteries and have done a good job portraying places and people I could recognize. Others have delved into its historic past in a fictionalized manner to explore important themes. None of these efforts were going to be helpful for me. I wanted a Bishop Hill that might have been, one of my own creation. Similar, but not. Familiar, but not.

The first thing to go—windmills. Not so hard to do. In order to have my 103-year-old span the time frame I needed, I had to set the action in 2008. There were no wind turbines on the skyline then.

You may ask why I needed a 103-year-old. Good question. During my first NaNoWriMo marathon writing splurge, I tired very quickly of typing in “great-great-grand...” whenever I wanted to reach back for historical facts or action. Easy answer: Create a character who had lived it all and who could bear witness.

So far, I’ve left the basic structure: the Bishop Hill Rd., Main St., the park, the Colony-era buildings intact. No one who’s planning to visit after reading my book will likely get lost. But I’ll work on adding a map anyway, just to be safe.

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