I always like to have a strong sense of place when writing a novel. I wouldn’t consider myself the kind of writer who labours over detailed, lyrical description of landscape and surroundings — far from it. My primary concern is always what’s going on in my principle character’s head. Nonetheless, without the capacity to visualise in detail where he/she is I quite often find myself struggling with the other aspects of the novel. Environment is an extremely important part of understanding who my characters are, even if I share only a little of the detail with my readers.
Wherever possible, I like the places I use to be real towns, cities, villages etc — or to at least be based upon them. In the early stages of planning a novel I will quite often consciously look for new places I haven’t used before, places that will reflect my character in the right way and provide the necessary possibilities I will need. The Yesterday Tree (the new name for We Are Watching) was no exception. I knew early on I wanted the North York Moors to feature. In winter it is a stark and awe-inspiring place, the sky seemingly going on forever. I knew virtually from day one that I would set some major scenes out there. There would be a dead man. A suicide. Probably more — much, much more.
But where was my protagonist going to live? He wasn’t a city or town man, that much I already knew. So it had to be a village — or at least a market town.
Last Wednesday, I found the perfect place. Thornton-le-Dale.
Nothing bad could ever happen there, right?
We’ll see about that!
Well, today I reached the point in my novel where I had to, reluctantly, let the character of Johnny — the fictional representation of my childhood friend, GS — die. I expected it to be difficult, whatever I may have said in previous blog posts, but in the end it just happened, much as it did in real life, off-stage and oddly veiled.
I’d thought of tampering with the circumstances — solidly putting the “semi” in the phrase “semi-autobiographical” — and having Johnny die centre-stage, clutching his bosom, so to speak, where my narrator (yes, okay, where I) could see him, but that struck me as crass and intrusive. GS wouldn’t have objected, I’m fairly sure. He liked a bit of drama, and often went out of his way to create it. But I think the off-stage choice is the right one. There’s a dignity about it that I feel is right. Whatever else it might be, I can only be pleased with that, at least.
In other news… I’m taking tomorrow off, and heading out I don’t know where. Possibly onto the moors again — see if I can find out anything more about Austin Wright. I can’t help wondering, Why Fylingdales? What’s he, an ex-remote-viewer, doing out there? It has to be significant.
If you see me on the news tomorrow evening being detained by sweaty military types, you’ll know I’ve got a little carried away with my research 😉
I always find the North York Moors an inspirational place to be. It’s somewhere that always leaves me feeling uncluttered and open to possibility. Today, whilst out near RAF Fylingdales, this was especially true — for ’twas there I “found” the first glinting traces of my next novel, tentatively titled, We Are Watching.
Let me introduce you to Austin Wright. Austin is a quiet guy. Quiet and solitary. He spends time, too much of it, out on the moor… remembering… remembering the night ten years before when his wife disappeared, three days after a remote viewing experiment in which the two of them had taken part… remembering and putting together the pieces… putting together the pieces and planning…
Thematically, I want to touch on faith (Austin never wavers in is belief that his wife was “abducted”) — using stylistic motifs borrowed from thriller and conspiracy-based fiction, whilst keeping it, in effect, a “literary” novel. I have a healthy respect for genre fiction, but that’s not what I’m good at; We Are Watching will at heart be an exploration of the relationship Austin shares with his “abducted” wife, but with a plot that moves, twists, doubles back on itself and (I hope) surprises.
Now, please excuse me while I go finish Children of the Resolution 🙂