05 February 2010

Travels in the land of my imagination: the beaches

My characters don't spend a lot of time at the beach, but there are a few beach scenes, all at a place called the Forgotten Beach, which I largely modelled on the beach at Tidal River, Wilson's Promontory, but with whiter sands -- something like Denison Beach, near Bicheno (below). It could otherwise have been the bottom picture, which is on the Southern Ocean. When I was at the prom (in Victoria), I walked part of the beach blindfolded, to see whether it could be done, because one lot of my characters have to walk the Forgotten Beach in almost total darkness. As well as finding out whether it could be done, I wanted to experience their sensory deprivation, to experience the cold mauling on my ankles the way they would, so did this walk late in the evening.

I've always lived near the sea, but on a bay, not the ocean. I know its moods, its scents and sounds. I know the birds that wheel overhead. It's amazing to me when I go somewhere like Squeaky Beach at the prom, or Denison Beach in Tassie, to hear the different sound that the sand makes, that sharp squeak on the ball of my foot. Or to go somewhere like Perissa Beach in Santorini, and feel just how hot black sands get -- quite different to the paler sands I'm used to.

I've never seen a beach with the sand rippled the way it was in the picture taken near Strahan (below). This was an estuary with day-tripping cruise ships moving up and down it, their wakes causing the rippled effect.

Visiting places gives you those telling details that you might not have otherwise imagined. I remember one of the surprises for me was walking on Corfu on a hot day (say 40ish degrees), and the hot wind (which I'll always think of as a north wind, because in Melbourne our hot winds come from the north) bringing the scent of eucalypts -- a startling smell that made me nostalgically homesick. Had I never travelled, I don't think I could have imagined this as something I might smell in Greece. You really do need to get out there.

One day, I'm going to set a novel in Delft in Holland. My father's from Holland, but not from Delft, which is somewhere I haven't been. Yet. But if I do write that novel (have to finish the current and next trilogies first), then I will be going -- going to track down its sounds and scents, its colours and textures, all the things that make it unique.

Honeymoon Bay, Freycinet National Park
Honeymoon Bay, Freycinet
Nine Mile Beach (near Swansea)

Denison Beach (near Bicheno)
Tessellated Pavement, near Port Arthur
near Strahan
near Strahan
near Strahan


Sherryl said...

So you understand why I'm going to South and North Carolina to research my pirate novel! Despite all the books and movies and photos and websites, I want to be stranded on the beach where my character was, see the inlet where the ships sank, walk through the dungeon in Charleston and down to the point where the pirates were hanged.
Arrrr! The final "real" touches to the setting.

Tracey said...

Oh, absolutely. You *must* do this. Will you have time, though, before publication?