|Overlooking Grand Harbour, Malta|
But nothing inspires me in the same way as a good location. More than the visual aspects alone, I can be captivated by what more imaginative people sometimes call the 'spirit of a place'. My pragmatic nature shies from words such as 'spirit', but I do hold that places are much more than what one can see in them.
A visit to a location sets off a series of questions in my writer's mind, and they are to do with history, origin, and the various footsteps that tramped that place through the years; the eyes that saw it, and the various stories that might have taken place in the very spot where one stands with one's camera.
Take this picture on the right. I stood right there in 2004, and waited until dusk bathed Grand Harbour, in Valletta with a veil of darkness, which was suddenly transformed by golden floodlights that turned the whole magnificent inlet into quite another place. The battlements and bastions were turned upside down in the water, and even the plainly practical port structures such as cranes looked romantic and meaningful. I had to use that scene - but more than just a scene: I had to use that feeling.
When the characters in my fiction have a problem, I send them to some magnificent place. I make them stand in some location where many before them have experienced drama: politics, romance, religion, ethics, the personal drama of relationships. All these are dwarved by the magnificence and meaningfulness of place. Place outlives them all, yet absorbs them all, and becomes imbued with their essence.
We could all make lists of locations that seem to embody history and drama. Yet there is not one square mile in any country that could be said to be free of history, politics, religion, personal drama and romance.
|Pic courtesy www.last.fm|
Novels would be nothing without the places in which they take place. Whether these are real ones the reader can visit, or totally fabricated by some very imaginative author, the place must contain the story and magnify it. The importance of this cannot be emphasized too much.
How do locations in books affect you, as a reader?
If you are an author, how much time do you spend researching a good place in which to anchor your story?
Leave a comment - a discussion about locations would be fascinating.