Sunday, February 8, 2015

Historical Research -- Settings

Good Morning. I haven't done a research post in a long time. I thought I would today.

When I first began writing, they used to call where we set our stories "Settings". Now they call it "World Building".

Anyway, last night I was working on WHEN ALL HOPE IS LOST. Lady Olivia is on her way to Seaford, a little estate outside of Brighton. (If you haven't read THE SEDUCTION OF MR. SUMMERVILLE yet, I won't spoil it for you and tell you WHY she's going there.) Well, Olivia is on her way, and first of all, I needed to know how she got there. Naturally, by horse and carriage. But, the larger question was, which route did she take.

Google Maps showed me three. Yes, I Google mapped it. The route, as the crow flies is 55 miles from London to Brighton. I am presuming that the route she took was the road that has been in existence for at least 200 years. If not, oh well. I TRY to be as accurate as possible in my "world building". Sometimes it just doesn't work, so I fudge. It's fiction.

a pivotal scene in the book happens here
You may wonder why I bothered to Google the route at all if it's fiction. Because I needed to know how long it would take. 55 miles by horse and carriage = 2 days. Horses travel 25 miles per day. (Well, they can do more, however, we have Lady Olivia + 5 servants + luggage + a heavy coach. We don't want to kill the horses now do we?)

The other thing I needed to know was WHERE exactly my fictitious estate of Seaford was going to be. I chose a little out of the way town called Offham in Sussex about a mile from Lewes on the River Ouse. That is about 10 miles outside of Brighton. It looks like a farming community from what I could see on the satellite image from Google maps. The little white dots I saw were sheep. For all intents and purposes, it is just what I wanted. And I wanted it on a river because ... well, I can't tell you. You'll just have to read the book. (If you want to Google it yourself, go to Google maps, and in the search bar type in Old St. Peter's Church, or Ivors Lane, Offham, UK. You'll see exactly where the estate of Seaford is supposed to be.)

the pond
So, I knew WHERE it was going to be, now what did it look like? That my friends, is where I spent nearly three hours on Google Images sorting through pictures of manor houses and estates for sale in England. Nothing looked right. I didn't want it too big, nor too small. I wanted it a little run-down, but still serviceable. Olivia has to live there after all.

As a "visual" writer, (meaning I need to have a picture in my head of my characters and my settings which is why I spend so much time with Google Images) I generally can't write unless I can "see" who or what I'm writing about.

this is just amazingly pretty
Anyway, I found nothing in the "For Sale" categories. However, I found a picture from the NSG (National Scenic Gardens). From what I understand, they have walking tours of these  houses and gardens when in bloom -- and what a lovely idea. (We have those here in America, but on a much smaller scale.) I found a few pictures, which then led me to Coton Manor, Paxton House, and one other whose name escapes me.

For your viewing pleasure, here is my fictitious estate of Seaford. (Otherwise known as Coton Manor.)

Note the wisteria climbing up the front and the river walk
different view of the front gardens

Naturally, when Olivia first arrives, it does not look like this. But it will when she's done with it.

I think that when writers write, their imagination is one thing, but having a visual back-up helps. In my instance, the wisteria on the front of the house lends itself into my storyline that otherwise I would not have been able to use this picture. Kind of fortuitous for me.

World Building or Settings, it doesn't matter what you call it, only that you know where your story takes place. (Naturally, this doesn't work for all genres, but it helps.)

What do you think of Seaford? Wouldn't you love to go there? I know I would.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

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