Thursday, 20 August 2009

Setting the Scene.

Sometimes when I'm reading a book I find that my mind links up the novel's characters to real live people. I have recently read The Likeness by Tana French - an excellent second novel by an excellent new writer - one of the main characters - Rafe, metamorphosised in my head into the actor Richard. E. Grant, and once there wouldn't go away. Whenever I read Stephen King's IT, my mind voices Pennywise the clown with Jack Nicholson. This happens to me time and time again.

I am finding this is also true with my writing, although in a more preordained way.

The 'hero' of my novel Bathory is a slim man in his thirties with dark eyes and unruly brown hair, in my mind's eye he is Orlando Bloom. I have a picture of said Mister Bloom pinned to my story board to keep his image true in my head (also young Orlando is quite pleasing to the eye when writing tries my brain!!). On my board I also have a print of Erzsebet Bathory herself and the ruins of her castle in Slovakia, plus a couple of photos of ravens - these big black birds make frequent visits in my story. There are also various pictures of the moon in various stages of its cycle. I have a calendar of 2006; that's when my novel is set, and a calendar of Slovakia in 1610; that's when Bathory was entombed. But my biggest attention to detail is my fictitious village of Parish.

I live on the Island of Sheppey...which contrary to some people does really exist!...and as I know the island so well I decided that's where I would set my novel, so I made up the tiny village of Parish, which is nestled neatly between Leysdown and Harty (places that really exist), and overlooks the sea. To keep Parish fresh in my mind I have drawn a map, detailing every street, shop and postbox...I do not want myself or my characters getting lost as they wander about the village.

I sometimes wonder if this is a bit too obsessive?

How do you keep characters and place fresh in your minds?

8 comments:

Kat said...

My practice is very similar to yours. I like to keep the characters, and anything that served as my initial inspiration, around my workplace. For one story it was a broken piece of turquoise. I just held it in my hand whenever my attention wandered, lol. It helped me refocus.

Bloom would be a distraction for me. You're a stronger woman than I am, lol.

Akasha Savage said...

Kat ~ as you know I am a Johnny Depp kinda gal. Orlando Bloom belongs to my daughter!!

Alan W. Davidson said...

I don't think that it's obsessive at all. My last night school instructor set his novel here in the St. John's area, but changed the names of the schools and other landmarks about (The Confessions of Nipper Mooney is a coming of age story about a boy in the Catholic school system). The rural village the boy lives in is similar to the on the author grew up in, but he changed the name in his novel.

I think that setting in locally really does give you a clearer picture. If I was writing a novel that had a fictional setting I would have to draw myself a map or I would get lost (typical guy!)

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think that's a great way to link with a character. The only danger is if the book is made into a film with a different performer in the role and you refuse to make the adjustment due to loyalty.

Akasha Savage said...

Alan ~ I do find it so much easier to write because my village of Parish is set in the area I live. It means I can use local landmarks and incorporate events that really happened which - hopefully - will make the story feel more realistic.

Stewart ~ I love it! A film based on my book! I can dream.....

onipar... said...

This happens to me sometimes too. One thing I strive for while writing though is to never broadcast that "likeness" onto the page. IN other words, I'll never say, so-and-so looked just like Brad Pitt. :-)

Rick said...

I keep them fresh the same way you do, Akasha. It's a marvelous method and it shows in your writing.

Akasha Savage said...

onipar ~ yes, you're right, I never write that someone is like someone. In fact I give the minimal description I can so the reader can create an image for themself.

Rick ~ Bless you for you comments. I'm beginning to feel you are my number one fan. :D