Attention to detail is essential in creating the world you want your readers to believe, for them to fall in love with your story more and more as they turn the pages. Seasons, what flowers would be in bloom, would there be leaves? Would the sun rise high or low in the sky for time of year? All of these questions and more need to be researched as fully as you can before you can move the manuscript over to the ‘last edit’ tray.
So, how do you create your world? Where do you get the information from? How do you find out what socks Henry VIII wore in bed? What kind of bugs were eaten by Neanderthals? What trees existed in 12th Century Norfolk? Did they drink out of glasses, tumblers, coconut shells? Who knows! But there are ways to find out…
Local libraries, National Trusts, The Forestry Commission were just a few mentioned. Technology wise there is Wikipedia and Google Ngrams. Fantastic tools available at the touch of a button. The list is endless but it just goes to show that the information is out there if you look close enough.
“Create a world out of what I’ve given you” a cry came out from the 1940’s heroine that had held my absolute attention for the last hour. Elizabeth Wein gave us all what we needed to hear on her master class in world building. We were even given the chance to channel our inner-5 year old and make our own little story from the play mobile figures and plastic scenery she had so delicately laid before us.
My task, should I choose to accept it James Bond-style, was to immerse myself in the objects in front of me and conjure up a new creative world. Behold tales of damsels in distress, snowmen on rowing boats with their trusty plastic washing machines on board.. all in the hope of saving the Tunnocks tea cake from being devoured by other SCBWI members in the room (you know who you are!). Oh yes, the tension in the room was electric. As you can see, a plethora of animals are trying to cross the icy-blue water to gain the chocolate treasure. But first they must sink the rowing boat which holds their tormentor, the carnivorous snowman with his Washing Machine of Doom and somehow pacify the starving polar bear who waits for us to land before we can claim our rightful prize.
I was enthralled! What a fantastic way of letting go of all the rights and wrongs you think are there to hamper your plot. Sometimes you just need to get back to how it all began, how your imagination developed as a child playing on your bedroom floor, into what it is today.
Map reading, or Cartography, has never been my strong point. I didn’t get the Girl’s Guide badge for that. Lets face it, I get lost in Glasgow and that’s a very basic grid system.
I picked a map of Devon as I wanted to look at somewhere I had never been and the well-thumbed cover of brown leather caught my eye. I was to search for areas on the map that related to my current work-in-progress. And they were in abundance – forest near the sea, paths leading to secret buildings hidden from prying eyes. It’s all there and more.
Our next stop on Elizabeth’s train of thought were guide books. Guide books of all shapes and sizes were passed our way. Brown stained leather covers to glossy prints of the modern era.
I decided that 1950’s Buckinghamshire was a fantastic place for me to start. Little did I realise what was in store for me. I was surprised to read that, according to the author, the accent is one of the ugliest in the United Kingdom. Shame on you, I said. My fellow SCBWI members agreed.
What a brilliant way to spend an afternoon! There is nothing more inspiring than being in the company of like-minded souls travelling on the same uneasy, fretful, fantastic literary road I find myself on.