30 January 2010

Travels in the land of my imagination: the forests and mountains

I live in the city, but I'm not writing about city or suburban life -- I'm writing about a land that's been partially terraformed by humans and is essentially a medieval-type landscape and society. My characters are riding around on horseback, through forests, on beaches; they live in castles and in underground homes. In my imagination, I dwell in these places while I'm writing, but it helps to remind me of what that means by researching, by visiting places that are as close to the ones in my novel as I can find.

Perhaps one of the most famous writers maxims is to "write what you know". To me that doesn't mean I have to write about suburban life, but that I must try to capture emotional truths. I know what it is to be frightened, to feel horror and loathing and joy and love and embarrassment. Frustration is often a parrot on my shoulder. I know these things, and I try to give them to my characters: I try to write my characters from the inside out.

Visiting forests, walking through the leaf-litter and hearing the soft pad underfoot (not so much the crackle of leaves because of the dampness), feeling the cool air lace fingers through my hair, smelling the dankness, experiencing the quiet, the sense of being alone in the world, in a world that could be medieval helps me to know my setting too, to bring it to life (I hope) for my readers.

We've just come back from a family holiday in Tasmania, where I got to inhabit quite different forests to the Victorian ones I'm more used to. Below are a few of my holiday shots, all of which could be part of my novel. They remind me of what it was like to be there, what it's like for my characters, and help me enter that place in my imagination where I do know what it's like to be a soldier or a king or any other thing I want my characters to be.

Freycinet National Park
Looking across to Freycinet
near Strahan
Dove Lake & Cradle Mountain
Enchanted Walk, Cradle Mountain National Park
En route to Cradle Mountain
En route to Cradle Mountain


Ellen said...

Nice post. I love mountains. Good theme for a series of posts . . .

Tracey said...

Thanks! Yes, now, if only I could've visited some castles as well . . .