Sunday, April 29, 2012

The importance of the setting

I’m just starting a new book, the eighth in my DI Marjory Fleming series and I’d been finding it hard to feel my way into it. When you’ve just signed off the book you've been writing for a year – plump with maturity, refined and polished, approved by your editor and ready to fly – your fledgling idea for the next one seems a poor, scrawny, puny little thing like one of those sad little birds you see fallen out of the nest.

So I did what I usually do when I'm feeling like this: I went down to Galloway in south-west Scotland where the series is set.

It's a very beautiful area, with dramatic seascapes, lochs, forests, soft rolling hills under big skies and the sort of little towns which have ceased to exist in the more easily accessible parts of Scotland, where people still ‘go for the messages’ (do the shopping) in a high street which still features a butcher’s, a baker’s and a greengrocer’s instead of  an impersonal supermarket.

It’s not a romantic idyll, though.  It’s only two hours from Glasgow which is one of the murder capitals of Europe and  it has a ferryport to Ireland so police have an ant-terrorist brief.   Rural poverty is very real and particularly during this vicious recession there is serious unemployment along with the sort of crime that arises from it, so there’s no shortage of ideas for the deeds of darkness that are the crime-writer’s stock-in-trade.

That’s not the kind of inspiration I was looking for, though. What I needed was to find the home for my story, identify the places where the events I was planning would unfold – though perhaps I should use the word ‘recognise’ instead of ‘find’.   I stood on the shores of a loch by the remains of an Iron Age settlement, I looked out over the mudflats of the River Solway at low tide and watched a stormy sunset, I felt the peace of a ruined abbey with its glorious vaulted Chapter House and knew I had got what I came for. Though I'm home now, it’s all real to me once again and I can feel the frisson that tells me the naked fledgling is growing its feathers.  Just the hard slog ahead now!

Oh, and a postscript to a previous blog where I mentioned my hundred-year-old uncle's birthday party. The next day his son went round to see how he was after such a long and tiring day. He was out at another party. Way to go!


Anonymous said...
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Charlotte Hinger said...

I would love to see Scotland. Someday, maybe!

Aline Templeton said...

Let me know if you're coming, Charlotte and we'll get together!

Cheapest Diablo 3 gold said...

Whoa, this is gorgeous. Envision each of the looking at along with producing you could do... Cool during the cold months even though.

Diablo 3 Gold said...

Scotland is always a dreamy place to me. How i wish i could see local people dance and sing.