Having spent a good deal of productive time exploring my novel’s characters last month, I’m now turning attention to setting
With a current population of about ten thousand, Bark Bay is a relatively quiet town in the northern United States.
The town’s name has its origins in geography and history. The town is located between the mouths of two rivers, the East and Indian, that flow into the large George’s Lake and form a deep bay. The inhabitants of a Native American settlement were driven off in the eighteenth century by English settlers, who named their colony Georgetown. The geography of the area made the town an ideal port for a booming lumber industry, but also made it very easy to attack; this combination of wealth and vulnerability led to decades of fighting among European factions, and the town changed its national affiliation several times until the end of the American Revolutionary War. Now citizens of the United States, the residents of Georgetown decided to change the town’s name as a symbolic dismissal of their colonial heritage.
The town’s commercial fortunes played a pivotal role in the renaming. Now established as one of the premier lumber ports in the Americas, the large bay was routinely littered with the industry’s remains; although no one is certain who was responsible for renaming the town or when exactly it occured (a devastating fire in the early nineteenth century having destroyed most town records), there is little doubt that soon after the birth of its country, the town was reborn as Bark Bay.
The town’s wealth dwindled as more lucrative lumber areas were developed, and nearly collapsed by the turn of the twentieth century. Reinventing itself as a yachting port, the town prospered again until the Great Depression of the 1930s drained the wealth from scores of summer homes. Since that time, many industries have tried to establish themselves in Bark Bay, some even flourishing for a while, but none having any sustaining power.
Today, the remnants of the lumber and tourist industries, along with modestly successful retail and professional businesses (Bark Bay being the largest town in its county), sustain the local economy.