One of the things I’ve said is important to me about this project is place. I almost gave it a capital P just then. Both personally and professionally, I’ve been giving place a lot of thought recently. There’s a lot to be said about how place shapes who a person is, even long after they’ve left where they came from. I want Grimsbury and Oldtown to feel that way.
So, Where is Maybeck County?
There are some things in the characters, connections, and questions which indicate some things about the location of Maybeck County. As well, I’ve got my own thoughts about where it should be. Let’s take a look at some of the indicators.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere…
There are some things that immediately stand out to me from the connections map that I made last week. Take a look real quick.
First thing is that we know the name of the county: Maybeck. Grimsbury and Oldtown are both in Maybeck County. Means that they’re located in a place where the county you’re from matters at least somewhat.
Next, we’ve got some locations in both towns, and in between, that give us some detail.
Grimsbury Parish – Doesn’t mean Catholic, necessarily, but there’s a church and folks call it the Parish. Or that’s the name of it. Either way, it’s prominent enough in town to get a mention.
Breakback Taphouse – This doesn’t mean that there’s not more than one bar in town, but it does mean this is where the action is. It’s like the Bronze in Buffy, or Merlotte’s in True Blood. It’s not just a bar, it’s the bar.
Swampback Trailer Park – Maybeck County is a place where there’s a trailer park, and it matters. Of course, trailer parks matter to people who live there, but to pick it out as a setting detail says something. Also, the name, Swampback. Says to me Maybeck County’s an area where folks know what a real swamp is, and how dangerous they can be. Also, now that I look at it next to the Taphouse, one of those two names needed to change, I think.
Maybeck County Post Office – Just the one, for the whole county. Says small towns, or growing towns with a postal staff that’s hard-pressed to keep up with the demand.
Riverside Docks – Okay. A river, and docks on the side of it. River’s going to need a name, and the docks are likely either an important source of income now, or used to be. I like the idea of “used to be.”
Route 53 – I’ve not talked about this location yet, but I included it on the connections map because it made sense to me. To have a road called Route 53 connecting the towns seemed like the right thing to do. When I made it, I was thinking of the US Highway system that predates the Interstates. Used to be the only way to get across the country easily. When the Interstates came along, their importance dwindled. There’s all kind of old hotels, roadside attractions and the like along them still. Even a Fiasco playset centered around an old hotel on one of them (lot of fun).
America – This almost goes without saying, but Maybeck County is in America. The entire setting is a half-step to the side, though. Weirdness at the edges, or right in the middle but hidden in plain sight. I don’t want to try to be Nightvale with this, but I do want to to have the setting be both weird and relatable.
Um, Where, Exactly?
I don’t think it pays to get too specific after this point. What I want is to have enough signposts to place. That way whatever I write will feel grounded in the consistent reality of Maybeck County. But if I layer on too much specificity, it can break that suspension of disbelief. I don’t want to choose a state for Maybeck County to be part of, I don’t want to know how far it is to the nearest big city. If I change my mind about that, I’ll make up that city, too.
I want this setting to resonate with the real world. It want it to feel real and relatable. I want it to feel like it has roots. I want people from similar areas to go “yeah, that’s what it’s like,” without them being able to point to it on a map. I feel like I might be rambling now, but I think it’s important for me to get this stuff out. Too often I’ve glossed over this step and trusted to my instincts about the setting to get me through. I want Maybeck County, Grimsbury, and Oldtown to force me to dig deeper.
Maybeck County’s got a river running through it, an old US Highway that used to mean something, a docks that used to mean something (and still might to some), a place where knowing the Parish is as important as knowing the Taphouse, and where the difference between living in town (either) and the Trailer Park is a marked one.
The other locations on the connections map are important, but I think they’re more important because of the people who are connected to them, or because of the plot points they could provide. All of this stuff has tendrils that run from one part to another, so all of these locations will end up adding to the sense of place. They’re all sort of honorable mentions in this process. They matter, but not in the same way.
What Do You Think?
Are there other locations on the connections map that make you think of other “place” things? What else would help Maybeck County feel real to you?