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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Strategy # 3 Historic Landmarks: The Daughters of Blessing Series

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

Historic Landmarks Example Study

The fictional town of Blessing, North Dakota has grown along with author Lauraine Snelling’s series, beginning with the Bjorklund family settling in the Red River Valley in the 1880’s and continuing into the 1900’s. Like any small town the Main Street becomes a public hub, and in Blessing the Mercantile holds a historic landmark status, both publicly for the town and personally for the Bjorklund family.

Below are two excerpts from two books in the Daughters of Blessing series. Notice how as a landmark the Mercantile threads easily through the conversations and also how decisions regarding its status have the potential to be minor sub-plots, or the potential for a major social upheaval that could cause severe change. 

A Touch of Grace, Book 3
From Ingeborg’s POV
Ingeborg tried to unscramble her thoughts but they tumbled over each other in spite of her good intentions. Penny couldn’t leave. They were all used to Hjelmer being gone but Penny and her store were part of the warp that held the tapestry of the town together. Newcomers were threads in the picture but without strong warp, the piece would not continue to grow. Ingeborg glanced around her kitchen, the zinc dry-sink came from the Mercantile, the jars that held her canning, the crocks of all sizes, the cast-iron frying pans and pots, her sewing machine, the new washing machine, the gingham she turned into curtains for the windows. Penny loved stocking new inventions for the women of Blessing, Hjelmer brought in the latest in machinery and his Blacksmith shop not only reset wheels but repaired some of the machinery. His windmills dotted the countryside, providing fresh water for humans and animals.
            “You can’t leave Blessing.” Ingeborg tried to put a touch of teasing in her voice but the cracking was a dead giveaway. “Please don’t leave.”

From the perspective of a Blessing summer visitor writing a letter home.
The big news is that Penny and Hjelmer Bjorklund are moving to Bismark and everyone is wondering if The Mercantile will go up for sale. This is making everyone sad. This intimate knowledge of one’s neighbor’s lives is so foreign to me. People in Blessing really care about each other, even those like Mrs. Valders who manages to offend everyone on a regular basis. She wants to run their lives, as both busybody and bossy.

Rebecca’s Reward, Book 4
From a Bjorklund family conversation
“Harlan Jeffers at the store.”
            Haakan huffed out a sigh. “Now what? Thought sure he’d give in and close on Sundays like we asked, but he is some stubborn.”
            “This may just be gossip since I’ve not seen it with my own eyes but….” Thorliff rubbed the side of his nose.
            “Spit it out.”
            “I heard he is selling liquor under the counter.”
            Ingeborg closed her eyes. No matter how hard she’d tried to make the man welcome, he’d not fit in. And refusing to close on Sunday set the entire community off. They’d talked to him politely and then boycotted. But he refused to give in, not that he had any business on Sunday anyway, other than folks sometimes off the train.
            “He’s carrying less and less stock, I’ve wondered how he can stay in business.”
            “I don’t think he’s ordered in much new merchandise since he took over.” Thorliff leaned back in his chair. “What do you think we should do?”
            “What can we do?”
            “Run him out on a rail?” Ingeborg adopted an innocent look to get laughs from the two men.
“You know I’ve said all along we need to set some town ordinances in place. So far we’ve all agreed on the way we want to run things, but with all the new people coming into the area…” He shrugged with his hands, pipe in one and tobacco can in the other. He set the things on the table, then himself in the chair. “We need a town meeting.”
            “But how do we deal with Mr. Jeffers? Short of catching him in the act.” Ingeborg wet a finger and picked up cake crumbs from the tablecloth.
            “But, Mor, this is an unwritten law all you women forced into place. No where does it say there will be no liquor sold in Blessing. Just like we sort of agreed there would be no liquor at the dances and barn raisings.”
            “Well, we didn’t all agree.”
            “But most everyone’s gone along with the rule in order to keep the peace.”
            “True. Or the wives would take care of things.” She rolled her lips together. There had been some rather loud discussions at the quilting meetings.
            Haakan tamped the tobacco down in his pipe with one finger. “But not all the men are married or belong to the Blessing Lutheran Church. And some of those young fellows like a drink or two. You know how they were after Sophie to put liquor in at the boardinghouse.”
            “So, I suppose Mr. Jeffers should turn Penny’s store into a saloon?” Sarcasm bled out of her comment.
            Straight faced as a judge, Haakan stared at Thorliff. “Prob’ly not a bad idea, finance wise.”

Exercise: What historic landmarks do your main characters hold close to their hearts? Make a list of potential plot twists that could happen if it were to be changed in any way.
Share: Which possibility surprised you?

If you’d like to read more history on the town of Blessing visit Lauraine Snelling’s site at

She also has a new series called Song of Blessing with Book One To Everything a Season releasing in October.

Read deep, marcy

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