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August 15, 2016

Writing About: Michigan

I was born in Michigan, but I was raised in Florida. I don’t know as much about Michigan as I’d like, but I feature Michigan as a setting briefly in Seismic Crimes and it will be the main setting in another Disaster Crimes book. For that reason, I am bringing to you a post dedicated to this state.

Here are a few things to keep in mind or use if you ever write about Michigan:

1. The Mitten

Michigan is known as “the Mitten State.” Have you ever looked at the map of Michigan? Take a look now. The state is in the shape of a left-handed mitten with a thumb and the pocket for the other four fingers. “The Mitten State” is a term of endearment from Michiganders and is the most popular nickname for Michigan. Your characters can use this term, too.

2. Mackinac Bridge

Also known as “Big Mac” and “Mighty Mac,” the Mackinac Bridge is the 3rd longest bridge in the US. This suspension bridge is spanning the straits of Mackinac and connects to the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. It is the 10th longest suspension bridge in the world. Before the bridge, people had to use ferries to go between the peninsulas. Every year, they do a magnificent firework show behind the bridge and there’s even an annual bridge run!

3. Mackinac Island

A great place to set a story or even a chapter or two.

Mackinac Island is known as the “Jewel of the Great Lakes” and is known for their vistas and carriage rides (motor vehicles are prohibited). There are many restaurants, shops, and pubs that contribute to an active night life. There are also many activities, making Mackinac Island a great place for your characters to go on a day trip, vacation, or wedding venue. (Heck, it’s great for real life, too!)

4. Pop

In Michigan, and many northern states, the carbonated drink is called pop. Not soda. Not even soda pop. Pop. Though some probably call it soda, pop is definitely the favored term for folks native to the north, so make sure your native Michiganders say “Pop” even when ordering at a restaurant. Or your MC can find it funny if he/she is not from Michigan.

5. The Great Lakes

Fresh water lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario. These lakes form the largest group of fresh water lakes on Earth. They possess rolling waves, strong currents, and great depths. Your characters can experience many fun activities on these lakes such as sailing, paddling, fishing, and swimming.
FACT: Lake Superior has claimed many ships and lives. The stretch between Munising, Michigan and Whitefish Point has been called “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” and “Shipwreck Coast.” Wouldn’t that make a good idea for a ghost story or mystery?
6. Cities

As with any state, Michigan has several note-able cities that would make good setting for different reasons.

Detroit – The most popular city in Michigan. Detroit’s Metropolitan area is known as “Metro Detroit” and is home to 4.3 million people. Detroit is also home to a lot of violence, crimes, and segregation/discrimination. I imagine cop stories and redemption stories set here.

Grand Rapids – Second largest city known as “The River City,” “Beer City,” and “Furniture City.” Here you can find mixed forest and farmland; a flat, narrow river valley surrounded by steep hills; and Kalamazoo!

Ann Arbor – Home to the University of Michigan, which makes it a good setting for a NA college story. Nicknamed “Tree Town” for the dense forestation of its parks and residential areas. The city contains more than 50,000 acres that change gorgeous colors in the fall.
FACT: Reportedly named after the wives of the two founders who both happened to be named Ann and the shady area under a group of trees (called an arbor) where the women liked to sit together.

7. Seasons

Whenever your story is set, try to include some of the characteristics for Michigan during the time of the year.

Winter – lots of snow and possible blizzards.
Spring – snow turns to rain, birds return, flowers bloom, and grass becomes green.
Summer – the time when Michigan comes to life with activity.
Autumn – cool and crisp weather perfect for fall activities.

The annual temperature throughout Michigan is apparently 50-60.

8. Unique Words and Phrases

Here’s some “slang” used by many Michiganders that could be fun additions to include in dialogue for the native folks in your story.

Pasty – a meat and veggie filled pastry dish.
The Thumb – the thumb shaped area of the lower peninsula.
The U.P. – upper peninsula
Fudgies – tourist
A cole one – a cold beer

9. University of Michigan

Located in Ann Harbor is a public research university and the state’s oldest university. Home of the Wolverines, whose biggest rival is Ohio State (the Buckeyes).

10. Fun

So what sort of activities can your characters do in Michigan when you’re not causing them grief, making them cry, or what-not? A lot.

Outdoors - Hunting, camping, fishing, kayaking, hiking
Sports - Golf, football,
Visit -  vineyards, farms, floweries, lighthouses
Travel – waterfalls, lakes, Mackinac Island
Snow Activities – ANY and ALL

QUESTIONS: Do you live in Michigan? Have you ever been to Michigan? What do you love the most/least?


Bish Denham said...

Michigan is one of states I've never visited or passed through. Well, except I went through the Detroit airport on my way to the Netherlands. Does that count? :) I know it much be a beautiful place, though I wouldn't want to be there in the winter... I'm not a snow person at all.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Visitors, expect to be called a fudgie!
You can also see Canada from Detroit.
The bridge run would be fun. I could run that far.

Sherry Ellis said...

That's funny that you think Michigan looks like a turtle with its mouth open. Now that you mention it, I think it looks more like what you say, than a mitten!

I had no idea tourists were called fudgies. :) They must come for the fudge.

Pat Hatt said...

Ann Arbour makes sense knowing that. Never been there at my lair, It does look like a turtle with its mouth open too.

Chrys Fey said...

I wrote a story set in Cleveland after having a layover there. So I say it counts. A little. ;) I'm not a snow person either. Too cold!

Chrys Fey said...

Good for you! I couldn't run that far.

Chrys Fey said...

See? I'm not insane. It is a turtle head! :P

I think the tourists are after the fudge. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I knew it. Even the Cat says it looks like a turtle head. ;)

Lisa Thomson said...

I've never been. This is an interesting summary of the Mitten State, Chrys. We Canadians also refer to soda as simply 'pop'. Soda is the bubbly water without any flavor. :) When I think of Michigan, I think of GM and the economic problems of Detroit. I think of water contamination...I guess these are a few of the things Michigan is known for. So, it's nice to hear more about the positives of the State. You've given us some great pointers on how to reinforce the setting in our stories, no matter the city.

diedre Knight said...

Well, that settles it. I'm going to Lake Superior! did someone say ghosts? Fascinating post on the "Mitten State", Chrys. I just love stuff like this. I visited extended family grandparents in Sault Ste. Marie - in the dead of winter. Once. My frozen toes have never recovered ;-) The grandpa had a secret fondness for whiskey and wine and I would have liked to have been around when the snow melted; revealing all those bottles!
Are Fudgies anything like the Snowbirds we have here?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Way too cold of a state for me. I've heard some bad stories about Detroit and of course, Flint, Michigan is in the news all the time.

Liz A. said...

I'm so sorry you're having a bad day.

The first I ever heard of the mitten thing was on a show called "How the States Got Their Shapes". They talked to Michiganders, and they would all explain where they lived by pulling out a hand. Fascinating.

Lidy said...

You know I've never noticed Michigan was shaped like a glove until you said so in this post. It's good to know such facts of the settings of your story. It add the authenticity when you also include the common vernacular spoken in certain places. I could never understand how they call soda 'pop.' It's always been soda to me but I'm originally from New York. Feel better.

cleemckenzie said...

Michigan has popped up everywhere this week. I just met some friends who'd vacationed on Mackinac Island. Then I saw an IMAX movie that featured a national park in Michigan. Now you! This must be Michigan's Chamber of Commerce dream week.

nashvillecats2 said...

A wonderful interesting post Chrys. It's always good to learn about a place one has never visited. I felt through reading your post I was there, Thanks.

Chrys Fey said...

Here I think the bubbly water without any flavor is either called soda water, club soda, or sparkling water. LOL We don't make anything simple.

Chrys Fey said...

I'd love to read a post about ghost stories from Lake Superior on your blog, Diedre. :)

Here, we get Snowbirds, so maybe they are.

Chrys Fey said...

Way too cold for me, too. Detroit and Flint are in the news a lot, unfortunately.

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Liz.

I heard about it from my dad when I was a kid and thought it was silly. That's when I decided it was a turtle head. lol

Chrys Fey said...

I don't think many people know about the mitten unless they live/d there or knows someone who lives there. Like you, I don't get "pop" either. But from place to place all things are known as something else.

Chrys Fey said...

Michigan is in the spotligh for you, indeed.

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad you found this interesting. I enjoy learning about places I've never been, too.

Birgit said...

It does look like a turtle's head! I have been many times through Detroit and Ann Arbor. My Uncle and Aunt lived for over 30 years in the Ann Arbor hills. He was head of the German dept at the university there. The hills is quite exclusive and i remember biking around the hilly area with my cousins. My cousins live in Lansing now and my other cousin lives 20 min away from Detroit. I remember, as a kid, in the 70's, driving, well not me, through Detroit and seeing these really crummy houses but with huge Lincolns and Caddys sitting out front. I also recall and motorcyclist wearing a black helmet with red flames and 2 devil horns. On the 94 Hwy we always watched for the huge UNIROYAL tire:) I have also been to Frankenmuth which was just wonderful! I hope you are feeling better now and hope it is not a cold or anything like that.

Carrie-Anne said...

One of my favorite YouTubers, J.C. Potts of Pangea Piercing, is in downtown Ann Arbor. I'd love to someday take a road trip to get pierced by him. So many fans have come from far and wide to see him, since he's such a master professional, and a really neat person.

I've only been in the Detroit Airport to date.

Chrys Fey said...

You wore a black helmet with red flames and 2 devil horns? You were a wild thang! HAHA ;)

Chrys Fey said...

It's fascinating that people can become famous for dong piercings. Do his videos show him doing piercings? I'm not sure if I'd have the stomach for that. lol

Anonymous said...

No, no, no, no, no! You got the seasons all wrong for Michigan. We have TWO: "Winter's coming" and "Winter's here". I AM NOT JOKING! We bitch about 70 degree weather.

Chrys Fey said...

Hahaha!!!! That made me laugh. My dad and other family up there would probably agree.

Janie Junebug said...

I don't think I've ever been to Michigan, but I've been in a lot of states. Interesting about the pasty because my daughter spoke of buying meat or vegetable pasties (I guess that's the plural, but it sounds naughty) from vendors in London. She said they were good.


Sheena-kay Graham said...

Well this Fudgie thinks the pasty looks like a fat version of Jamaica's Beef Patty. We have a variety of patties including full on vegetable patties. One of the most popular foods locally. My favorite is curry chicken and rice and (red) peas. If you make it the way that I like I'll love you forever. Never been to Michigan but it sounds nice.

Carrie-Anne said...

He performs piercings in almost all of his videos. J.C.'s been piercing for over 20 years, and he also makes jewelry. Unlike many other piercers, he uses a biopsy punch instead of a needle for ear cartilage piercings. His show is called The Modified World.

Denise Covey said...

Sorry to hear you're having a bad day, Chrys. Hope tomorrow is better. Thanks for the tour of your state. It does look like a left-handed mitten. We don't use the term 'pop' or 'soda' in Oz, we say 'soft drink' just sayin'...:-)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It does look like a mitten.

Oregon must be a mish mash, as we said both soda and pop. Sometimes sodapop.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chrys - I hope life will ease up soon. The map does look like a mitten, or a puppet ... could be a scary story there.

We say fizzy drink ... and a Pasty is a Cornish Pasty very special!!!

I've never been to Michigan - but have always wanted to visit the Great Lakes since learning about them in Geography all those decades ago!

Cheers and take care of yourself - Hilary

Chrys Fey said...

Hmm...well, maybe I will check it out. Thanks!

Chrys Fey said...

They are good. :)

Chrys Fey said...

The curry one does sound good.

Chrys Fey said...

Soft drink is used sometimes here in Florida, but mostly if you're in a restaurant. lol

Chrys Fey said...

Oregon can't make up their minds. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

A puppet. Yes, it does look like a puppet. I never thought of a scary story for that, but that's interesting. ;)

Fizzy drink is fun! I like that. :)

emaginette said...

Interesting. Pop is used a lot in BC instead of soda and pastie is a common British term. I guess that's no surprise since Canada shares the lakes.

Anna from elements of emaginette

Debbie D. said...

Michigan is right next door to Ontario and we have a few things in common, like "Pop" and fall colours. We recently took a road trip vacation to Ann Arbor and Frankenmuth and enjoyed both. The Museum of Archaeology at the university is impressive! Frankenmuth has fabulous, colourful landscaping and, as a person of German heritage, I felt right at home.

Chrys Fey said...

I love learning what different areas say. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I can see how Michigan and Canada will have similarities. Frankenmuth sounds amazing.

Debbie D. said...

Frankenmuth is so unique! A beautiful Bavarian town in the heart of America.

Chrys Fey said...

Next time I go to Michigan, I need to take a trip there. :)

Shannon Lawrence said...

Sorry about the rough day. :(

I saw Mackinac Island and Bridge on a couple Dirty Jobs episodes. :p I think I might enjoy living somewhere with no motor vehicles. I'd have to keep one in storage on the mainland, though.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Thank you for the great information. I knew nothing about Michigan, but your descriptions have made it come alive for me as a beautiful state with lots of places to visit and enjoy.
I hope your day has gotten better.

Chrys Fey said...

I'd like to live somewhere with no motor vehicles, too.

Chrys Fey said...

It is a beautiful state. :)

Thanks, Beverly!

Chemist Ken said...

I live in Metro Detroit. The area is nice, with plenty of woods and lakes to visit.

I'm from Missouri, so I was much amused when I heard them call it pop instead of soda when I first moved here. Sounds like something you read about in books from the 40s or something.

Unfortunately, autumn is only about two weeks long up here.

If you want the character to sound like they’ve lived in Michigan a while, have them point at their left hand to indicate where a town (or something else) is located.

Chrys Fey said...

I know. Autumn isn't long in Michigan. Or Florida. Or many other states. It's funny that you mentioned pointing to your hand to indicate where a place is because my dad told me about that many years ago.