Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Living Story


Things have been a bit rubbish recently. Lovely Novel turned out to be Lousy Novel and has been discarded. The doctors thought there was a chance the cancer had come back (it hasn't). The little girl missing in Machynlleth is from the town where my family live and the whole place is, understandably, in shock. My mother broke her leg, well, her knee, but it's a full plaster and she's totally immobile. So that's that.

But, there has been a gleam, a little sparkle, a nugget of loveliness. And, bear with me here, it all started with a trip to a Victorian mortuary. Yes, I know. It doesn't sound that great. During the London Open House weekend (which is a splendid thing and everyone who can go, should go), I went to Rotherhithe to see the mortuary. I thought it would be interesting, after all, I am the woman who spent the evening at the Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge, listening to a talk about the history of autopsies. There's nothing left of the mortuary now - it's a community centre - but as I listened to the history of the place, how the building was used, how they took in the bodies washed up in the Thames, the seed of a story planted itself in my head. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Rotherhithe. I spent another day wandering around Wapping. And I went to the Crossness Pumping Station in Erith Marshes. And I read. Peter Ackroyd's London Under building in particular built on my story idea. I went mudlarking. I went to the Mayflower and the Angel (oh, such hardship in the name of research) and I scribbled notes, took photos, and let the story evolve.
It struck me how lucky I am to live in London, the place where my stories are usually set. You can still find historic buildings and atmospheric lanes. The river itself tells so much - the shores, the old jetties, moss covered steps long since abandoned. And all these things build a picture in your head, give your characters somewhere to grab onto, make the story come alive. We have excellent museums. The Museum of London has a Victorian shopping centre. Their off-shoot in the Docklands has Sailor Town - a street with a lodging house, shops, the riverfront. You are never far away from the past, whether real or imagined.

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And my story? It grows day by day. I have my setting. I have my story line. I have my characters (thank you Miriam Halahmy for the fantastic SCBWI masterclass). But because of my wanderings, I have my world. It's in my head. It's real, it's breathing, it's alive. And you can't get better than that.

11 comments:

  1. Oh good luck with your story, it has some wonderful ingredients!
    I love walking on the riverbank at low tide, it always feels slightly forbidden and you get such a different sense of London - in terms of perspective, sounds and smells.

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  2. Thanks, Amanda. We should organise a SCBWI mudlarking day!

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  3. Wow, you have visited some fascinating places and have the making of a bril atmospheric novel. Enjoy creating your world and escape from the rubbish stuff while you're writing it.

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  4. Sorry to hear things have been rubbish but yay for new ideas and mudlarking!

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  5. Sorry things have been rubbish. Good luck over the coming months. Mudlarking sounds like perfect therapy. Happy writing and I hope things get as good as they can. Soon. x

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  6. Ooh this sounds great! Can't wait to read it - I'm already hooked!

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  7. You have been to some wonderful places. I love that part of rsearch. Enjoy writing it, I can't wait to read it. Keep enjoying your trips out they are the food of writing I think xxxx

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  8. oh my god that sounds amazing. go on then, hurry up and finish writing it!

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  9. hi, love your blog! so cool :)
    could you possibly check out mine? would be an honour! currently im holding a giveaway to get a voucher code in order to redeem a free piece of the heat tech x uniqlo range, to pick up in oxford street!
    Itsfashiondamnit
    Thanks! Lottie xxxx

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  10. Sorry things have been uncool, but keep going, keep going!

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