Location, Location, Location

Disused mill, Southwold

Sometimes, no matter how much you’d like to render faithfully a real-life location in your story, some plot gremlin might instead force you to decide that it’s not a good idea. This happened to me during the writing of Loss of Separation . Initially, the novel was to be set in Southwold, Suffolk. It still is, and people who know the village will recognise the place, but I’ve changed its name to Southwick. The reasons for this are twofold. First, the residents of Southwold, unlikely as they are to see a copy of LoS, let alone buy one, might not take kindly to my describing their home as a place where ‘people come to die’. Second, I don’t want the tourist board to start haranguing me because potential visitiors have been put off by the child deaths and rape. Third, I wanted to write a scene in a cave. There are no caves in Southwold. But in Southwick there’s a doozy called Bryning’s Pit.

Of course, as a writer – and as a writer of fantastic fiction – I possess a special licence to write what I like about wherever I like. In London Revenant, for example, an earthquake destroys the city and a bunch of people spend time trying to find hidden parts of the capital, insane hotspots that don’t exist on the A-Z. I didn’t worry too much about offending the stout occupants of the metropolis. If you’ve seen off the Luftwaffe and pooh-poohed the terrorists, a horror writer putting a crack through your back garden isn’t going to cause any problems. But for authenticity’s sake, there needs to be some consistency.

I think, as long as you treat the venue for your story with the same care as you would a character (and in the best stories, the location can sometimes be so strongly depicted that it becomes another character), readers don’t mind – maybe don’t even know – that your village or town or city is a complete fabrication.

Listened to: Moon, OST


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