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.
I always thought it looked like a turtle’s head with its mouth open.
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!)
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?
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.
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
Image from Cooking Channel TV
Click for the recipe
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).
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?