Sunday, 30 November 2008

Being there

Really odd today.

I went for a walk through my novel.

By that I mean I visited the actual place where it is set - the North York Moors around Farndale and Rosedale. It’s been a long time since I had a good wander around up there, although it was a major part of my growing up. I have been writing it into my novel this year purely from memory and from similar (but not really) scenery in my now local South Pennines.

As we drove across the moors this morning I began to have second thoughts. Was this really such a good idea? Would my fiction crumble to dust when confronted with the reality? Would my plot become a geographical impossibility? Would I have to relocate it to Devon?

When we arrived I was overwhelmed, partly by how much I had accurately remembered (including the location of roads and markers) but also by how much I had forgotten. The place in heavy fog is even more atmospheric than I recalled and is completely fitting for the magical realism elements of my novel. I spent a long time in the freezing fog scribbling in my notebook and touching the real things - such as the waymark stones - that have been fiction for me for twelve months. In the shifting mist and silence (broken only by the maniacal cackling of the grouse) I lost track of what was real and what was fiction and I just knew that I had chosen the right location.

One of the central elements of my story (yes this super secretive writer is actually going to give something away here!) is the waymark stone known as Fat Betty.

I have this picture of it pinned above my desk and I have strong memories of visiting it as a teenager but actually being there was fantastic. I even got hubby to re-enact one of the scenes there - with partial success. (Interestingly the stone is about half as tall as I remembered it - chest height on a man not head height (maybe my boyfriends were smaller then :o)).

So definitely a successful reconnaissance and we rounded it off with lunch in one of my favourite pubs- The Red Lion at Blakey Ridge. It doesn’t feature properly in the novel, but its car park does and amazingly it was just as I’ve described it (amazingly as my memories are based around teenage trips up there on Friday nights with a designated driver while the rest of us drank cider.)

Very glad I took the plunge and did some proper research. Can’t wait to get on with the edit tomorrow.


HelenMH said...

That sounds like an amazing experience. It's good that you have such a strong sense of place in your novel.

KAREN said...

I think it really helps bring your writing to life if you've actually been there. Great picture :o)

Leigh said...

What lovely fun!
Very odd, I know.
I visited this year (for the second time) one of the main settings for my novel. I had not been there for two years (and before that fifteen years), so it is interesting to see how your memory plays tricks.
Don't know about you, but I kept expecting my characters to appear at any moment!

Jumbly Girl said...

Helen - yes it was amazing and I do now feel muc more confidnet about the sense of place

Karen - Yes its made a difference to my writing this week now I've refreshed my memory of the place. But - but I'm sort of glad I left it to this stage to actually revisit it. Fat Betty's fab isn't she

Leigh - that's exactly what I felt - that my characters might emerge from the mist and it really helped me identify with my cnetral charatcer who has some important scenes at that spot

Sarah*G* said...

Just wanted to stop by to say Merry Christmas to you and I hope 2009 proves to be a great one for you!

Tam said...

My teen novel is set in London and I really enjoyed writing about places I've loved for all of my adult life.
Glad your trip paid off :-)

Jumbly Girl said...

Sarah - Thank you and a belate Merry Christmas to you and happy New Year. I have been a bit absemt from blogland lately cos I'm snowed under with work and novel editing but I'm hoping to reemerge at some point soon.

Tam - It's great being able to put them into stories isn't it - and its odd that sometimes it's not the places you first think of that end up being the ones you write about.

Happy New Year!