Last weekend I went to Dunford House in Surrey for a writers' retreat. I went on the Friday and returned Monday afternoon. Friday was just socialising and dinner as we could only check in at 5pm, due to another group leaving.
Saturday - we had a talk by Lucy Christopher about settings. Here is what I learnt, and what I did about it. Lucy researches the senses. Think of the tension. What might happen in the place. Place can shape relationships. Settings can show all that is needed to know. Be specific. Then we had an exercise where we had to write down our own settings from our work and write what it was, what it looked like, what we saw, what it sounded like (descriptions eg bird songs), what it smelt like, feels like. Here I drew a rough sketch of my magical village Singleton, and I drew the park in the middle. I wrote as though I was the main character in the park and what she felt like being there. It really brought the village and the park to life for me, and I had a great idea how to bring the story more alive when I wrote about it next. For me, the magic I wanted to write about got darker. We had to think of the textures under our feet and in hair. (Later on in a break, I went outside and felt the gravelly path to do this, and later wrote it in as part of what the character feels). What tastes evoke the place.
Emotional tension. Fear and excitement. Sources of fear - what does she fear. What excites her about the place. I wrote that she fears she will live there forever like all the elders in the village, but is excited about new people coming to live or see the place. This then came me an idea how to flesh out the whole series, bringing in new people to meet the residents who work there, so they fall in love. So more places would be coming - by magic, of course, when couples fall in love.
We had put create a pull for our character to go out of it. Paula, my main character, goes to work in the next village. This then gave me more magical ideas to put in the story. Weather was mentioned. By this time, the end of the talk, I had lots more ideas to improve the story and make it seem darker than I originally planned, but I am loving writing it.
After that, we had writing time. I got down to it, and wrote and wrote new storylines for Snakeskin Boots inc the darker magical side of the village. I also began writing family trees for each character in each book, which helped me flesh out the characters and the businesses there. I believe this is what my editor was commenting about in her letter to me about it.
In the afternoon, was more writing time and I wrote some more on 'Life'. After an hour my fingers went crampy and I had to stop and I went outside to get some air and do some senses research for Boots.
We had dinner later on. We had chicken on mash (no butter) with new potatoes and veg, which was gorgeous. Followed by meringue with forest fruits. It was pavlova, but as I can't eat cream, I just had meringue. V nice it was too. After that, I went back to my room cos I was v tired. I read for a while then went to bed. I slept better that night than the night before.
Sunday next....more writing and getting a publisher interested in Billy.