Right now, I am in England. This picture is of me…well, my wellies, anyway, on a day below zero degrees. I’m here for a month to visit my family, to do some sightseeing, stuff like that. But it has also been really invaluable for my writing.
At the moment I’m working on a YA contemporary called The Daisy List.
It’s set in – you guessed it – England. While I do make up a fair portion of it, being here helps me get a feel for the weather, the culture, the shops and the food and the environment. Going to London meant that I could pinpoint exactly where Daisy might go.
Like here, for example.
I took this photo on the side of the Thames opposite the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It’s also right next to the London Eye. There’s a scene in my novel where Daisy and her friend sit and toss chips to seagulls, just talking. Being able to sit there myself was absolutely amazing. And since I’ve revised that scene now, I think it lends a sort of authenticity to it.
So I take photos of lots of things. Some might never be used.
(although it WAS extremely delicious)
When I get back to Australia I can look at all these photos and use them for whatever I like. I keep a travel journal as well, detailing differences between Aus and England (there are many) and the places I’ve been. Detail is always better than being vague – readers can tell when a setting hasn’t been fleshed out. World-building is just as important in contemporary as in fantasy.
But travel can also help with other genres apart from contemporary.
The castle in the distance here could be where a king lives. It could be the portal to another world. It could be anything.
This frozen spiderweb could be the clue that the Snow Queen has returned. And yes that WAS an excuse to use this picture! You don’t often see frozen spiderwebs in Australia.
Of course, travel isn’t completely necessary to flesh out settings.
Not everyone gets these opportunities, and imagination is always going to be a writer’s best tool. But if you are travelling – don’t waste it. Even if you don’t have a novel set in that particular place, who knows? You might use it one day. Take photos. Take notes. Use everything.
Because already I think The Daisy List is a better book.
So Emily’s doing lots of things. By the time this blog post goes up she will have done the Harry Potter tour in London. Yay! Then she’s jetting off to Paris on the 16th, in the hopes of eating lots of croissants and taking billions of photos.
Because you never know when you’re going to set a novel in France, do you?
She’s also close to the launch of her new blog, loonyliterate.com, which is very exciting. She hopes everyone is having a good start to 2015.