|Pamela S. Meyers|
Using Local Newspapers to Make Your
Historical Setting Come Alive, Part 2
By Pamela S. Meyers
By Pamela S. Meyers
Last week I discussed using newspapers from your historical setting to catch the passion of the town. Today, I want to talk about how using the store ads can help make your story authentic to your time period.
Even though Lake Geneva, WI, my story setting, is small, I was amazed at how many ads filled each week’s edition of the paper. I found those advertisements to be a good reflection of the town’s climate, as far as the Great Depression was concerned. Nothing indicated the presence of breadlines, but that didn’t mean people weren’t struggling to make ends meet. The grocery ads contained numerous items at prices we’d consider dirt-cheap. But to a struggling family, even a fifteen-cent can of soup may be out of reach if they needed something else more.
My main concern was naming a store that didn’t come into business until after 1933. I took copious lists of all the stores who advertised in the paper and even scanned articles for mentions of others. If I wasn’t sure of the date a store opened for business, I didn’t use it.
Later when writing my story I worked from the list of retail stores, dropping in their names as organically as possible. My characters had lunch at a drug store soda fountain at least once. Another time I mentioned the name of the hardware store as they walked past it. My heroine’s father’s law office was in a suite of rooms above the local men’s clothing store. For example, I originally had my characters go to an ice cream store for sodas that I remembered being there when I was a child. I presumed it had been there for years like the drug stores. I mentioned the establishment to the town historian, and he stated he didn’t think the store had been there in the thirties. I changed the name of the place to a fictitious name.
If your setting is a large city, you will probably have a lot more to work with than I did, but the important thing is to work within the framework of what you have, utilizing authentic businesses where you can, and where you can’t create your own.
Next time, I’ll discuss getting the facts as right as possible down to the nth detail.
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago. She served on the ACFW Operating Board for five years and has also served her local ACFW chapter in leadership roles. Her historical romance, which is set in her hometown, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, released in April 2013. You can find more information on Pam at www.pamelasmeyers.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pamela.meyers.(e-book) (print)