At this precise moment, I am staring at the “Edit Post” screen in WordPress, typing these words ever so slowly as I try to think of what to put. There is an overwhelming temptation to click on the “Move to Trash” rather than the Publish button. In fact, the immediate temptation was to find out how to underline words and make the text red and that was the one I succumbed to.
Between editing scientific papers and writing this blog, I am writing the second part of my novel. I am at the stage where there is still some research to be done and today I wanted to find a convenient office block for the investigator, who is trying to find out what happened and why, to be based in.
Fortunately, I am writing this in the age of the internet and Google Maps, so I was able to quickly locate some prime real estate right where I wanted it. The story is based in London, centred on St Paul’s cathedral, so I wanted something nearby, but not too nearby for reasons of plot, and preferably with a reasonable view of the area. I was prepared to create a building myself, but I really wanted to avoid doing that as I have been true to the locations’ details in the first part of the novel. I stumbled (in a virtual sense, of course) across the King’s Reach Tower, perfectly placed across the river from Blackfriars station. The office block is even empty at the moment which means I don’t have to mesh my story into reality too much. Whilst checking the location out (all in cyberspace) I found this amazing picture:
The photographer spent hours on the roof of King’s Reach followed by more hours editing and gluing the pictures together. The result is a frankly stunning panorama of the view from (almost) my character’s office – how did the photographer know that that was where my character would reside as she works on her first real case, when I have only just found out myself?!? Spooky…
Until I started writing “properly” (with the letters joined up and everything), I was always a bit sceptical about writers who said that their characters “told” them things about the story or “led” them down alleyways they never knew were there. “Yeah, yeah” I would think, “single malt can do that to you at two in the morning.” It turns out that characters can lead you along some very curious and disturbing paths indeed. Barry, in part 1 of Batdig, was a prime example of a character who did what he had to do quite against my wishes. It’s almost as if, having had the decency to create a fictional character with free will, they turn into a truculent teenager at the first opportunity and do the exact opposite of what you want them to. Similarly, Suzanne the investigator clearly “demanded” an office with a good view of the river and a TV on the wall in one corner. Who was I to refuse? I may, of course, be making her character a little too strong, but, ultimately, she will have to learn that I am writing the book not her. At least, not at the moment. I don’t know, she’ll be wanting a Playstation next.
You know what? She’ll probably get it, too.