Sometimes you have to see it with your own eyes

March 16, 2014 at 9:40 pm | Posted in real life, Writing | 2 Comments
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Some could argue that in the age of the internet, with Google Earth, Google street view, Flickr, etc, that you don’t have to visit a place to write about it. I know of authors who have written novels set in cities that they’ve never set foot in, and I’ve done it myself, never having visited Kalgoorlie and its surrounds, where Eyes Wide Shut and Rust Red: Galvanized are set.

No one’s ever picked me up about any location errors in those books; still, set something in a real place and it’s always a risk that there’ll be something you miss. I almost made a location error in Whitewater – there were plenty of photos of Wylie’s Baths, the place where Luke goes for his daily swim, online for me to look at, beautiful, atmospheric photos that showed me that Wylie’s was just what I wanted in a beachside pool for Luke. But what none of the photos I saw online showed me, what I saw when I got there, was that the pool was graduated, less than ankle deep at the land edge and only about 3 feet or so deep at the sea edge. The photos also failed to show me the big “NO DIVING” warnings painted on the concrete along each of the pool’s edges. Originally I did have Luke and Cam diving into that pool, but in the finished book they walk in, because to remain faithful to the reality of that place, they couldn’t dive.

Now, obviously there is room for poetic license, and writers do that all the time; I made up a whole town in Equilibrium, and made space for a bakery and a beachside café in Coogee for Whitewater where there is no space for those things in the real Coogee. Sometimes, if you need something to be there you just plop it down where you need it and all is right with the world.

Having said all that, if you can visit a place, it’s usually an advantage. Lake Pupuke is a freshwater lake in the middle of the North Shore of Auckland, formed in the craters of two volcanoes (yep, volcanoes). A lake in a volcanic crater sounds like a place where some paranormal happenings might take place, does it not? Observe:

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OK, admittedly, the bright, sunny day makes it look like the best place ever for a swim, but people have drowned there, so…yes. We will see what happens. 🙂

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  1. That lake looks like a great place to visit! Though, you mentioning that people have drowned makes it seem like a poor place to swim. Making up a town for your writing is part of the process; sometimes existing places aren’t good enough. What was your favorite part of creating the town?

    • When you see the lake like that, it’s hard to believe that people can get into trouble there, but they have, and I’m sure they will again. Sad.

      I think my favourite part of creating my own town was how it made me think about the people who lived there. When you decide to put in a pub, an op shop, or a bakery, you’ve then got to think about who would work there, what sort of people might frequent those places. Even choosing what area to put your town has implications, but more often than not, all that doesn’t actually make it into the book. When you just plonk the action down in an existing place, there’s often no need to think about that stuff, over and above what furthers the plot. It makes it interesting.


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