The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Small presses are a good source of local color

If you like flavoring your short stories and novels with the kind of local color provided by a town’s legends, history and ghost stories, you can always go a Google search with such key words as “Florida Panhandle, Ghost Stories” and “Montana, Legends” or “New Orleans Recipes.”

Your plot and characters come first, of course, but the local color gives them additional subjects to talk about, foods to eat, spooky places to avoid, and careers to engage in.

arcadiaIn addition to the oral histories compiled by the Federal Writers Project of the 1930s, local libraries and other organizations often have information collected from oral history projects about the old days. You’ll also find books at indie book stories in the local history and local authors section, including books from Arcadia Publishing’s local history series.

Another source for information is the regional publisher. Quite often, these publishers are not only interested in keeping the old legends of their area alive, but also have nonfiction books about industries, farming methods, Indian tribes, and early settlers. You might be surprised at just how many towns are covered by books in the Arcadia’s series as well as by small publishers headquartered in the place your story is set.. If your town doesn’t have such a book, there’s an opportunity for you to write it after you finish researching your novel.. These books are illustrated by a great number of pictures; so, tracking down archival photographs is a must for the writer.

navalstoresI have written a variety of stories set in North Florida. So I’m always searching for ghost stories, legends and information about the area as it was 35 to 50 years ago. My Kindle short story “Cora’s Crossing” is about a haunted bridge I used to drive over when I was in high school. Now there’s a book about the legend of Bellamy Bridge in Marianna, Florida. I used to see evidence of the turpentine business in the forests near Tallahassee where I grew up. Now there’s a book about that.

My books are set in north Florida, Illinois, and Montana, places where I grew up, worked, lived or visited. So, I’m always on the look out for books and web sites about these areas. You can often start with Google or Wikipedia, but sooner or later you may need a small publisher interested in preserving the history and culture of an area to find the kind of background information you may need to bring your story alive.

–Malcolm

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