When we read, be it a short story, a children’s book or an epic novel; whether it’s fiction or non fiction, biography or autobiography, we ‘see’ our own version of the events and the characters we are reading about. It is, if you like our own private cinema, a cerebral movie experience where we are the only viewer, and the writer is the director and the producer.
And when we read a book many years after we first read it, the pictures remain exactly the same. For example, as a very impressional schoolgirl of thirteen I read a book about a young girl dying of cancer. A few weeks ago, I tracked down a copy of this book and read it for the first time in forty two years. I saw the same images that I had as a schoolgirl. Every scene, every room and exterior had remained exactly the same and every character had been frozen almost in time. I saw them all as clearly as I had all those years ago. And I was still impressed with the tragic yet uplifting story.
So much for my experience as a reader. But as a writer the images in my head as I type are just as clear cut and as sharply defined as those of the reader. My characters move around and live in my mind and they inhabit a world only I can see, and one which I have to attempt to convey to the reader with my use of words to describe the fields, the river, the house and the gardens where my
people live and work. Their world and mine.
My WIP is set in 16th century Essex and the photo above is what I imagine the area may have looked like at the time. Not ideal by any means, but it’s the nearest I can get to the flavour of the Essex countryside of the time. And when my boys go riding, (as they frequently do in the book) I have a very clear image of the terrain over which they do so. They have a favourite spot by the river where they also go to be alone, and again it’s very clear in my mind. The willow tree and the view of the estuary around the bend in the river. When Will first sees it, it takes his breath away and I want very much for the reader to be as entranced as Will.
East Anglia is well known for it’s ‘big skies’ and that is something I try to describe to my future readers. The ever changing cloud formations and the shadows which shift across the fields and waterways and the brilliant blue of a cloudless summer sky or the banks of thunder heads piling up in the distance are magnificent to behold when unimpeded by hills or mountains. Just rolling skies and low, distant horizons broken by the occasional church spire or ancient copse or plume of drifting smoke from a cottagers chimney.
So this is the world which I have been inhabiting with Edward and William for the last six months and it looks as though I shall be with them here for a little longer yet. But I am enjoying the experience immensely and as my skill as a beginner writer grows I hope to try and immerse my readers into their own version of that world. And hope that, like me they will retain those images for many years to come.