Friday, 18 June 2010

Places and Faces

Good morning, everyone. Isn't it a glorious day today?

The last time I hosted a coffee morning for the Novel Racers I was on holiday in Ibiza. Guess what? I'm on holiday again, in Challaborough Bay in Devon, visiting my brother, Steve, who works here and has a very nice little flat above the surf shop. Steve is waving from his rooftop terrace and says hi to everyone.

There's no mobile phone signal for miles - BLISS! There's just a lonely little wif-fi connection in the waterfront bar, which is where I'm sitting now. If you want coffee and biscuits you'll have to fetch them from Steve's flat because the bar isn't open yet.

When we arrived here last Sunday I sat outside the waterfront bar, sipping a welcome cold drink after a seat-gripping ride from Northamptonshire in an Audi TT - 253 miles in just under three and a half hours. (I don't think I need to do the maths - but it was fast!) Nature went a bit crazy with its canvass in this little valley - there's too much green, blue and beige-yellow. It shouts a bit loud too - it gave its gulls hearty lungs and ear-piercing screeches; its cows low, rumbling moos and its sheep incessant whining bleats. It also daubed its canvass with a bit of eccentricity as an afterthought - Burgh Island. The huge expanse of sand that separates the island from the mainland is tidal. There is a white-walled timewarp hotel on the island and a pub. Loads of people get caught out, apparently, and unfortunately have to spend six hours in the pub until the tide goes out again. What - with no mobile phone signal and cut off by the tide I can only imagine how annoyed they must be!

Anyway, I've wittered on enough about the scene before me, but it does provide a brilliant setting for the new novel that is swirling around in my head. Burgh Island has just acquired new owners, too .... mmmm - interesting!

This is very clearly a scenario where a novel forms and dovetails quite nicely around a real place. But what do you do when you have a story, you have your characters and nowhere for them to act out their little dramas, bodice-ripping squidgy scenes and toe-curling scandals. Do you drive around until you find the right place (like Sue Moorcroft recently told me she did with Honeybun Cottage in 'Starting Over') or do you invent a place, too. If you invent a place, do you draw a little map of it?


Flowerpot said...

For me the setting seems to be part of where I start off, so it comes before the characters, or at the same time as. If that makes sense. Hope you are having a wonderful time - haven't been to Burgh Island for years. Love that sea tractor!

Karen said...

Soundsl like you're having a lovely time :o))

Setting doesn't play that big a part in my novel so I imagined places where I've lived before. Some of it's in the future and I definitely haven't been there!

If I wanted to get a proper feel for a place though I would go somewhere and soak up the atmosphere - much as you're doing. Not that I'm jealous or anything!

Cathy said...

Sorry I've missed a few weeks.

In the novel I've just finished the setting wasn't important, so I based it on a city I do know, but relocated it to a different part of the country.

In my next planned novel a historical setting will be fundamental to the story and is requiring quite a lot of research, while the modern elements will be based somewhere I have lived myself and can visit easily again to fact check and pick up the atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be OD'ing on coffee these days so... I'll have another one!

The places in my stories tend to fall into one of two categories:

* A familiar place that gets renamed and/or relocated.
* Somewhere not even on the planet!

You'll notice that this technique involved minimum research. Call me lazy.

I most certainly do draw maps though. There's one here in case you're interested.

I'm glad you're enjoying your holiday, Annie.

Denise said...

It sounds lovely there, I'm extremely jealous. I could also quite happily see myself trapped for 6 hours at the pub!

I've swiped Windsor as my current setting, which is great because I know it so well. It does feel rather lazy though, after inventing several planets for my last novel. It's also got me thinking about how much I need to change. I've currently tweaked the names of bars - like Browns to Brownings - but I'm not sure if I have to. As long as I'm not writing terrible things about them, I could probably keep the real thing?

I don't know where I'll set the next one, but I could see the Windsor theme continuing. Unless I have an idea where the setting is pivotal, I'll probably stick with somewhere I know.

Debs said...

You sound like you're having a lovely time. *waves to Steve*

My settings do play an important part in my novels, but mainly in my head as I need to know the house the characters live in well and I've also used places that I love to visit. I love the idea of maps, but am hopeless at drawing (yes, even a map) and so generally have a photo or picture in my head.

Fia said...

Have you been over to Burgh Island? Its tres posh and very beautiful. (Needless to say I haven't)

My setting is a military base. I have drawn a map but changed all the names for the book. Just in case :)

HelenMHunt said...

Finding a tangible setting is one of the things I'm worst at. I think for the new novel I need to set it in a real place, so I can write it as it is. I'm not sure where though - somewhere with a distinctive atmosphere I think.

Leatherdykeuk said...

I set pretty much everything I write in Laverstone, a fictional town in Wiltshire whish gets more detailed with every novel.

Lane said...

My settings tend to be amalgamations of places I know and I love being the 'town planner' and mapping it all out. The power:-)

Your holiday setting sounds wonderful Annie.

JJ Beattie said...

Sorry I'm late. (And that I missed last week.)

Setting feels really important to me. My novel is set mostly in Kent but the village is an amalgam of several real villages I know.

The last time I went to the real place I was quite surprised that the cafe in my book wasn't there!

liz fenwick said...

Like FP - I tend to start with setting and it's a huge part of the books. However in each of the books it plays a different role...or at least i think it does.

Burgh Island sounds bliss