** This blog post comes with a warning that it may contain spoilers from Under Fire **
The 3 steps to easy world-building are:-
1) Convince your other half that it’d be a really good idea to holiday in [nominate location of your choice] this year
2) Buy airline tickets, sort out accommodation etc
3) Arrive, soak up atmosphere, build world
I hope that if you’re a writer of any discipline, you have lots of memories from your travels around the world, together with photos where possible to help with your world-building. You never know when a particular location is going to come in handy for a scene.
For instance, I’ve spent the past few days wandering around different locations in Malta. I first came to Malta in my childhood with my grandparents, who wanted to show me around the island where my Mum grew up. The memories of that trip provided the basis for many of the scenes in my latest thriller, Under Fire, and yesterday I spent some time retracing my steps from all those years ago.
First stop was the safe house to which Dan Taylor retreats while on the run. This used to be my grandparents’ house while my Grandad served with the Royal Marines based at Ghajn Tuffieħa.
True to my memory, the narrow track leading up to the house from the old barracks is still overgrown, and the house is looking neglected but the building is solid – made to last with concrete and steel.
Meanwhile, I’ve also spent time walking along some of the narrow roads of Valletta – these and the streets of the ‘silent city’ of Mdina were the basis of the pedestrian chase scene.
Apart from reminiscing and checking my memory served me well for Under Fire, this trip has also been for research in relation to a standalone thriller I’m currently drafting – one of many projects on my plate.
By travelling well-worn bus routes, exploring narrow streets and devouring information the museums here have to offer, I’m bursting at the scenes with
Actually being here, where my characters and story will be based, is fuelling the writing engine over and above anything I could achieve were I still at home, surfing the internet for information.
Sometimes in order to research, you really do have to leave the comfort of your own home, put away the computer and explore the world.
Only then will you achieve a real sense of ‘place’ in your writing.
A big thank you to everyone who braved the elements earlier this week to come along to my book signing in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
It was great to see some familiar faces and make new friends (a special "hello" to Bella the black Labrador and Mr Feegle the Siamese cat).
Hope you enjoy reading your copies of White Gold and Under Fire!
I’ve decided that research for my writing needs to be hands-on. The thought behind this is that if I’m engaged and interested, this will flow through my writing so that readers pick up on that while engrossed in one of my thrillers.
For “Under Fire”, I finally got out of the office, away from the emails and visited a real submarine at the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney late last year (see here) and that worked so well, I’m now considering that this should be something I do with each project – get out there and explore.
Luckily I’ve always had an adventurous streak. After all, that’s why I emigrated to Australia from the UK eight years ago – as the Aussies like to say, to “have a go”. Failure, or having to go back to the UK with my tail between my legs, didn’t even factor into the plan.
With a couple of new writing projects on the boil, and a trip back to Europe for the next three weeks, the possibilities for “action research” are endless.
For starters, there’s the trip to a museum in London where one of my characters works. Where’s the nearest café? Do they serve coffee the way he likes it? Does he have to sign in or use a swipe card to get to his office...?
Then there’s the week in Malta where I’ll be exploring the mid-20th century history of the country. What was it like to live there? What did people wear? What did they eat? What was it like for ex-pats from the UK?
And, finally, because there’s part of me that just wants to push this “action research” thing a little more, there’s the one-day stuntman course on the Gold Coast and a hostage taking course down in Sydney somewhere...
Now that’s “action research”.
Hopefully I survive.
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