When I write a book, it’s important to me to create a setting that readers can connect with—a place, a feeling, an aura that enables them to create an image in their heads (with help from my words) so vivid, they actually feel as if they are wherever the main character happens to be in a particular chapter.
In my books set in Amish country, I spend a lot of time in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Every time I visit the area, I’m always paying close attention to things like pace and customs. Because it’s in getting those things right, that authenticity is born.
While I’m sure you can understand why pace and customs might be important in crafting believable characters, did you know those same aspects are also critical in bringing the right flavor to a setting?
Let’s look at both of those facets and how they relate to setting via my just-released women’s fiction novel, A Daughter’s Truth.
Pace. Think about the pace of the Amish. They’re hard working, yes, but their schedules are not dictated by mobile devices and scheduled activities. Farmers look to the seasons and weather patterns to grow and harvest crops. The Amish, regardless of what they do for a living, use horse and buggy to get where they’re going, rather than automobiles. They’re more attuned to nature and their surroundings because it’s not passing by in a blur. Their quiet spots are, actually, quiet—like Miller’s Pond, a fictional pond I created in the real life town of Blue Ball. This pond is tucked away behind (and surrounded by) a grove of trees. For Emma Lapp, the main character in A Daughter’s Truth, one of those trees has been a hiding place for a secret she’s kept for fifteen years, and counting. When that secret leads to an even bigger one that changes everything she’s ever known about herself, she’s understandably thrown for a loop.
(In my mind’s eye, this picture would have been snapped from the vantage point of the rock she often sits on while contemplating her life…)
Customs. The Amish have a very specific way of doing things, depending on where they live. For example, Lancaster Amish use scooter bikes as an additional form of transportation. In Shipshewana, Indiana, the Amish use regular bikes. And in Holmes County, Ohio, it’s not unheard of to see a battery pack on a regular bike to assist the rider in getting up some of the hills they have in that area. Customs, of course, reach into all sorts of areas with the Amish from the when of weddings, to the how of funerals. In A Daughter’s Truth, the book opens with Emma heading off to visit her aunt’s grave. Because I know that it is the custom of Lancaster Amish to bury their dead in small cemeteries within each district, I had a sense of where Emma was going—what it looked like, how it might feel on a cold, January day.
(In my mind’s eye, the cemetery to which Emma goes looks a lot like this one, only it’s roughly half the size and there’s a tree in one corner. Levi, the boy Emma has a crush on, lives on an adjacent farm like the one you see here—giving him the vantage point by which he’s able to share some very important information with Emma regarding the mysterious Englisher who visits her aunt’s grave on the same day every year.)
Of course, as the reader, you might see Miller’s Pond and the cemetery differently than I do. And that’s okay. That’s one of the best things about reading—the characters, the setting are yours to envision.
Laura Bradford is the national bestselling author of over 30 books, including the newly released women’s fiction novel, A Daughter’s Truth. Portrait of a Sister, her first women’s fiction novel was a July 2018 Book Club Pick for Delilah of Delilah Radio and a Summer Book Club pick for Southern Lady Magazine. For more information about Laura and her books, visit: www.laurabradford.com