Lost in middle America

Not really lost, but yearning.

Long-time readers of this humble blog (both of them) will recall that my Finnegan novels are something like mystery stories without murder and mayhem. (I’ve asserted before that there is plenty of evil men can do that isn’t necessarily criminal. Such can be worthy sport for amateur detectives.) My Finnegan stories are generally set in small towns about my home state of Missouri, with my husband and wife protagonists staying a bed and breakfast inns, stumbling upon some puzzlement, then more or less resolving it within 80,000 words.

Finnegans Deciphered is one of these. I have it set in a small town along the Missouri River, which bisects the state from west to east. I have an actual town in my head as I describe my fictional town (called Monmouth) and walk my characters through it. I’ve visited the actual town a number of times, though it is unlikely that I will stay in any of its half-dozen bed and breakfast inns since the cost of a weekend there is equivalent to a month’s salary for me. Still, I’d like to go there right now, as I’m immersed in the first draft writing, to soak up atmosphere and detail and to see what I can’t imagine but that I still need to see.

My story is set near the end of October in an unspecified year. The proximity to Halloween, when people wear masks, is more than coincidental, but enough about that. If I went to this town now, I would not find trees in their autumn colors or mild temperatures that encourage walking about the quiet streets of the village. Many of the shops and galleries are probably not open. The snow is likely piled high, making the sidewalks impassable. And the prospect of driving a hundred unnecessary miles in sub-freezing weather seems beyond prudent research, at least at the moment.

Still, I’m nearly finished with the fourth chapter, and I think I’ve found my rhythm. The writing is coming along, but it’s not going so well that I’ll be finished with it before the weather gets more favorable. I will likely have plenty of chances to visit the town and then supplement what I’ve written (or have yet to write).

So back to work.

Update 3/11/11 – I managed to squeeze in a few minutes driving the streets of this town on Monday, returning from a long weekend in Kentucky. We had miles to go before we slept, so we didn’t linger, but I did drive nearly all of the streets in the little town and tried to soak in some of the atmosphere of the place. Of course I’m not writing a literal presentation of this town; it is merely a real-world anchor for the fictional town of my story. Nonetheless, I noticed that other than before the few buildings that make up the commercial street, there are no sidewalks. I have a few scenes of characters walking through my town, a few encounters on the streets. I guess I’ll tinker with those to remove sidewalk references.

I’d like to re-visit the town some mild spring day and actually put my own feet on those streets. Perhaps I shall.

Update 10/4/11See more about this matter here.

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