Location, location, location.
Where do you write?
They say to ‘write what you know.’ Now, if that were entirely true, there would be no such thing as speculative fiction, science fiction or fantasy. However, to some extent it does hold true. Writing about a place you are intimately familiar with can help with details.
I mostly write about Ireland. Do I live there? No. But my ancestors did. Well, some of them. 11% of them, according to my DNA test! 😀 But I have visited many times, and Ireland holds a piece of my soul. I have visited every county in Ireland, albiet some only briefly. I love putting details in my writing from the places I’ve been, and it helps to add verisimilitude to the story. Now, most of my books are set in historical time periods, so I do research to see what was actually there at the time. The grand cathedral in the center of the market town may have been built in 1848, and your book is set in 1846, so maybe you have a construction site, but no finished building. These sort of details are important to me.
But how do you find such details? Sometimes it’s difficult to research the history of places. Buildings such as churches can be somewhat easier, as there are good records as to church building. You may have to dig a little, but usually the Catholic church keeps good track of such things. And if you go early enough, no buildings are on record. For instance, I’m working on a novel called The Enchanted Swans, which starts in 500 BCE. No churches in Ireland then! Of course, there were lots of buildings – roundhouses and crannogs. But none were made of stone, all wood palisades. A visit to Craggaunowen or Navan Fortwill help with the visualization of such structures.
But landscape doesn’t change much over time. Sure, bits of cliff may fall into the ocean, or mountain tops are leveled for a tourist view, but for the most part, Conor’s Pass in Dingle offers a similar view to what it’s had for a thousand years. And having been to that view – three times before I could see anything due to heavy mists! – I can describe what there is in a novel.
In my novels Legacy of Hunger and Legacy of Truth, the story is set partially in Ardara, Donegal, Achill Island, and Kenmare. Here are some photos from those areas that I’ve taken on various trips to Ireland.
Legacy of Luck, which is due out in January, the third book of The Druid’s Brooch series, is set along the north coast of Ireland and in the west coast of Scotland, up to the Isle of Skye. Here are more photos I’ve taken in those areas. Watch my page at Tirgearr Publishing for more news on Legacy of Luck.
No matter where your imagination takes you, make sure to know the place well before you try to transport others there. Even if it’s only research via old photographs, paintings, or Google Earth, there is a way to make sure the details come through and become part of your story.