This post is by Nancy Jardine.
Authors are often quoted as having the most amazing imagination but I’m not always sure that’s an instinctive attribute for all writers. Personally speaking, I need a little bit of help to kick start my imagination when I’m writing. Once I get that little extra push, I’m right into the scene and then my characters can take over in their imagined setting.
When I write my contemporary mysteries my imagination is helped by my memories of a place where I want to scene set. In my contemporary mystery Topaz Eyes, I used a number of locations in cities that I’ve visited. When I decided to have one of the ‘cousins’ in the story live in Vienna, Austria, I just had to turn on my memories of central Vienna and the wide open old streets popped up.
But I also know that my memories can be fickle and a bit selective so in the interests of accuracy I turned to the internet to give me current photos of where I was thinking of. That little research on the internet was useful when I was writing Topaz Eyes because the trams I was seeing in my head were red during my visit in 2002. The current ones in the area I was writing about have been the bright yellow tourist designed ‘Ring Trams’ for some years now. (c. 2010?)
There are still red trams operating on the original tram lines in Vienna but they’re not where my scenes are. After my research on the internet, as I wrote the scene where my main female character Keira was being pursued by her unknown stalker, I was ‘seeing’ her escaping from a bright yellow tram.
In my historical writing it’s not so easy to create visual images for my locations. I want authenticity and credibility in my stories but I can’t look back at photographs of my places to see what that landscape was like 2000 years ago. The contours may be largely the same but the vegetation is unlikely to be similar since recent centuries of farming (since the 18th century) and forestry methods in north east Scotland have altered the original picture. That means I need to seek help from other places.
I can add things that were already very ancient like standing stone circles of the stone and bronze ages, or stone hillforts, or stone brochs but my imagination definitely has to work a lot harder on things that were made of wood- like Celtic roundhouses and crannogs which have mostly deteriorated to nothing over the millennia.
What helps sometimes with my ‘scene imagining’ for 2000 years ago Scotland is looking at the artwork of some relevant artists like the famous Angus McBride, or from illustrated children’s non-fiction history books of which I still have a large selection! But I need to remember it’s that particular artist’s interpretation. Other artists, archaeologists and historians may interpret things differently. And so do I!
In Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series, when writing about my character General Agricola thinking about the Emperor Domitian and the Senate being back in Ancient Rome, I find it a little helpful to look at ancient sculptures. The friezes, and the carved fascias of ancient buildings also give me clues as to what the environment was like. Things my character Agricola is remembering as they were almost 2000 years ago. My visit to Rome last year helps me a bit but of course, what I saw last year is only what has survived and not the Rome of Agricola’s era in all it’s colourful glory.
Virtual imagining processes of ancient places are fabulous and I love to see any that are shared with me on Social Media. Looking at Pompeii, or Portus (the artificial harbour of ancient Rome), or Athens or Ancient Egypt is fascinating.
So, last week, when I saw a FutureLearn course entitled ‘Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City being advertised I just could not resist enrolling. Click the link above, scroll down to the little video window and see what’s on offer. You might like it, too but there’s not much time to enrol since it starts next week, 9th October! (I loved my last year’s FutureLearn course on Hadrian’s Wall’.)
I’m hoping this Rome course will give me some ideas for polishing my character named Agricola a little better, or that it’ll be useful for the next book in the series BUT—most of all I hope that it’ll be fun!
Guess I have to get my head down now and finish my current writing!
What are your thoughts on Virtual imaging? Do you like seeing the way gifted visual imaging creators present these ancient places?
Nancy Jardine writes: Contemporary romantic mysteries; time travel historical for early teens and historical fiction for adults. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland.
You can find her at these places:
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @nansjar
Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere