In the movies, a location gives a scene drama, suspense and an air of mystique. You only have to think of the James Bond films and the exotic locations they feature, or the historical places visited in the Da Vinci Code to realize that location is key to the film success. But the same can also apply to books. I believe that where a story is located can be even more vital. Readers usually have no visual clues to connect them with a location, relying completely on the writer to convey the sights, sounds, smells, and atmosphere to be immersed in the scene.
When I write my books, I always like to include real-life locations to deliver a sense of realism and authenticity. They also leave the reader with the ‘what if’ feeling, especially if the story includes facts and information that are genuinely true. Hopefully it leaves the reader wanting to visit the places. I usually choose places that are historic, have an interesting history or are linked with myths, legends or magic. Some of the locations I have used include EdinburghCastle in Scotland, the MI6 and Bank of England buildings in London, and ancient stone circles. For me to get a feel for the location, I usually do a trawl through the internet and collect images of the location and use these to help me with my descriptions. Also Google Earth is an amazing tool that helps me physically describe a journey my characters may be taking. I appreciate that it would be better to visit the location in person, but unfortunately it’s not always possible. The internet opens up the world in an incredible way.
My new book, The Curious Disappearance of Professor Brown, is a humorous detective story with a nostalgic twist set in Whitby in North Yorkshire, UK.
I spent some time in the north east of England many years ago when I was at University, which gave me a flavour for the area. There is something ominous about the dark clouds that hang above the hills of the North York Moors, before quickly changing as the wind blows off the North Sea. Whitby is featured in Bram Stokers Dracula; it’s where Count Dracula’s boat beaches in a storm. Dracula feeds off some of his victims amongst the ruins of Whitby Abbey on the top of the hill overlooking the harbour. Although Whitby is a harmless coastal town, I like the undercurrent of mystery that is sometimes associated with the surrounding moors, the abbey ruins and the unforgiving North Sea. In the Professor Brown book, my protagonist is a reluctant eighteen year old private detective, Lawrence Pinkley. Although an idyllic coastal town immediately conjures up a pleasant image in the mind, the story is supported by brilliant illustrations by Dylan Gibson that portray that simmering and sinister feeling.
So, for a reader, the right location helps to create a mutually shared and recognisable feeling and emotion. For writers, welcome to the location shop – take your pick and help yourself. Your story gives you permission to journey across the planet and into space.