Cobbled Courtyards and alleyways…
What immediately comes to mind when you read the above? I think of the 1800s, swirling fogs; the plaintive cry of a lone tug hooting on the River Thames, and – goose-pimples and horror – Jack the Ripper waiting around a corner with a knife and evil intent. But then, I was born in England, my father worked on the river – we lived near enough to hear those mournful cries – and I walked down many of the alleyways the Ripper haunted when I later lived and worked in the East End of London for a few years. So, it was hardly difficult… Plus, I read a lot of Charles Dickens works. Like much writing, it’s when realism and imagination merge, which is my favourite style. For reasons unknown to me, I most enjoy writing stories based on the truth, although I veer off course now and then.
Travel and life experience are invaluable to factual writers, whereby fantasy writing, as the name implies, relies on a vivid imagination, and authors don’t come more imaginative than Franz Kafka who wrote The Metamorphosis. Let’s face it, waking up in the form of a giant cockroach needs serious thought…
Switching to fact and fiction, how easily old, historical cities and towns lend themselves as backdrops for mystery, murder and intrigue. Take Prague with its cobbled squares and enigmatic alley ways. I explored it, fascinated by its architecture when celebrating our Golden wedding anniversary with my husband.
Charles Bridge, surrounding countryside and castle were a joy to behold; the atmosphere so tantalizing and almost as “sliceable” as an elaborate iced cake…
It didn’t seem in the least bit bizarre that we came upon a man sitting by a gutter with a fishing rod down a drain, or to come across a lady with a tortoise on a lead in the local park.
Us writers are such lucky souls… even if some haven’t travelled widely. I believe it was Einstein who said that “Imagination is more important than intelligence.” Bless him. Imagination married to talented writing can produce some amazing works of fantasy. One such author, who creates believable ‘other worlds’ peopled by believable creatures because her writing ability ensnares you with her craft, is Diana Wallace Peach (See below.)*
It is said that most of us have between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day… and we have to make around 35,000 decisions (crikey!). That many of the thoughts and decisions are usually quite mundane is inevitable, but pouncing on the INSPIRED ones, which sometimes creep in like welcome visitors, can be a gift from the muses.
Much like many frequent travellers, I have always kept a daily diary and have more notebooks than money… (being ‘mature’ and not technical I like to SEE my words written in ink, although I do, of course, save them online). Leafing through them is fun – little illegible – and handy if I want a quick quote or reference.
Lately, as I’m still…writing THAT book (you know the one which will make one famous…) I’m more aware than ever of ATMOSPHERE and CHARACTERIZATION, so it’s edit, edit, edit. To write “The wind – wailing like a banshee through the forest,” (Steinbeck?) is obviously more descriptive than just plain “It was windy in the forest,” (Hemingway?) so I’ve got ‘my eagle eyes open.’
Fortunately, whether your reading taste runs to fact or fantasy, the choice is huge. I am an eclectic reader and writer, but there was one book I just couldn’t get into, and that was James Joyce’s Ulysses. He may have been highly intelligent and spoke 17 languages, but he certainly didn’t speak mine.
Of course, whatever style you write in, catchy, character descriptions are valuable to any reader desirous of ‘seeing’ the person on the page. Someone with “Close-set, olive-black eyes, an elongated face and parrot-like nose” is hardly likely to be forgotten…”. “Tall, dark and handsome,” belongs in an old Barbara Cartland novel.
So, all you factual/fantasy writers ‘out there,’ what’s stopping you?!
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2020
*Diana Wallace Peach author of:
Liars & Thieves
And several more excellent, books
I agree, we need realism and imagination to create stories people want to read. It´s how we put those words together! Good luck with your current work in progress, Joy.
I also agree that Diana Peach is an amazing author of fantasy. https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8
Thanks Darlene. Good luck with your new Amanda book.We all need as much luck as there is around, don ‘t we?!. Hugs xx
Thank you so much for the kind comment, Darlene. And that was lovely of you to share my page. ❤ ❤ I'm feeling loved. Have a wonderful day and week ahead.
I’m with you in still writing THAT book and on Ulysses! But—progress!
Thanks for reading and comments,Crystal. x
You so right you the only thing stopping me is myself. 💜
Thanks for reading, Willow. xx
“. . . but he certainly didn’t speak mine.” I love that line! And yes, just because you’re famous does’t mean a tot if people don’t read you. I like what I like. My favourite author? Wilbur Smith.
Thanks Pamela. It’s ages since I read good old Wilbur…I need cloning! x.
Hi. I liked Dubliners, by Joyce. And also his Portrait Of An Artist. But I know I’d never get far into Ulysses. That one is beyond me!
Hi Neil, Ulysees was given to me many years ago and it quite put me off the man. I also read about his life and personality and that put me off even more…There are so many more deserving books to be read anyway! Keep well and enjoy your walks. Cheers. x
I’m getting a chuckle out of the comments about Ulysees. My creative writing professor in college talked about what the novel is supposed to be doing, according to the literary critics and theorists–but for all intents and purposes it’s unreadable so don’t bother with it. Reading Ulysees would be the literary equivalent of self-flagellation with a cat-o-nine-tails. You’ve proven how tough you are, but now you’re bleeding all over the carpet.
I was indeed intrigued by the title, Joy. I love your description of wandering through the East End and through Prague and how the atmosphere of those places stirred your imagination – the real and the fantasy blending into something unique to human beings. How can we possibly visit castles and not sense the stories, see the characters. Fantasy, in my opinion, has to grounded in the realism of its characters if nothing else. Because most stories, regardless of genre, have to be human stories that stir our emotions. And thank you so much for the mention! I was tickled by your kindness. You left me with a giant smile this morning. Yay! Have a wonderful Sunday and week ahead. ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi Diana, Glad you liked my post. You know I’m a fan of your writing skills. I’m always amazed at the brilliance of your imagination. Mine seems somehow limited when it come to stepping out of a certain reality. I must make an effort one of these days…before I start putting my slippers in the fridge…On a more serious note, we are horrified to see and hear about the terrible fires you have to contend with. Have you been directly, or indirectly affected? I do hope not. Stay safe. Hugs xx
Thank you, Joy. The rain finally came and the air is breathable. And yesterday I found the box of dog biscuits in the microwave. Lol. Parts of getting old can be hilarious with the right attitude. Keep smiling.
Another fascinating post, Joy. Like you, I also like to mix a lot of real life into my stories. I am currently working on a short story about the radium girls in the USA who died of radiation poisoning after hand painting watch faces with luminous paint. It’s kind of you to mention Diana here. She does write beautifully.
Thank you, Robbie. That was kind of you to say. And good luck with your story. I’d never heard of the radium girls, so I’m really curious to read it. 🙂
Hi Robbie, Glad you enjoyed my post. Yep, like you, I’m usually drawn to realism blended with imagination, rather than pure fantasy. I’ve only written one novel: The Catalyst, and that is based on the actual terrorist bombings in London on a few trains and a bus in 2005. I recall being horror-struck at the time as I sometimes caught the train to the next station on my way to work, years before. The train depicted in my book, was written about with as much realism as I could conjure from the newspaper cuttings, TV footage and court case which took place several years later. Out of respect to the dead and injured, I held it back for several years before publishing, using real backdrops and places but with fictitious characters. I’m a great admirer of Diana’s prowess as a fantasy writer, although I don’t read it! Sounds odd, but it’s true. I am in awe of all our group ‘s talented writers, you included. Muy bien! xx
This is such an excellent blog post Joy. You make so many pertinent points. Imagination is one of the greatest tools we fantasy authors can use but in these times it isn’t that uncanny that I should write and compile my first realistic fiction in the anthology This Is Lockdown. I doubt that it would have ever happened if it wasn’t for COVID19.
Thank you.Marje for reading and commenting, and the best of luck with your anthology. Hugs xx
PS to Robbie, The best of luck with your short story. The powers that be, are far too flippant with people’s safety when it comes to manufacturing. Remember how many died after being affected by asbestos?” Hugs xx
For me, the writer who best achieved that balance between imagination and reality was William Faulkner. His settings were very much grounded in the real world, but his characters’ inner lives were pure imagination.
Hi Liz, Thanks for reading. I regret not having read Wm Faulkner. Must make amends…Take care. x.
Delightful post, Joy! I’m all about stories based on fact. Writing or telling, spinning a good tale that is grounded in a real event is what I do. Much like you.
Thanks for reading and your kind comments. My only novel was written around the dreadful terrorist bombing in London in 20005. Maybe it’s because I was hung up on speaking the truth as a child – ie influence of Sunday School and the Catholic church.. I was aghast if I heard anyone blatantly lie!! (Would be useless in Government…) I still dislike wanton lies, but realise white lies are often necessary!! Take care. x
Loved this post and I totally agree with you about Diana’s writing. A lovely mention of her too. Hugs! (PS in case you’re not aware, your Twitter name isn’t attached to the tweet button. I added your name manually to my tweet. ❤ xx
Thanks Debby. 🙂 Joy was so sweet to give me a shout out. And a very cool post on top of that. 🙂
I’ll second that! 🙂 xx
Gracias Debs re Twitter. Glad you enjoyed the post. Happy New Year if I missed you. Take care. Hugs XX
Hi Debs, When I pressed your Twitter button it also didn’t work properly the first time, and after a second try put it ‘on hold.?’ x
“Imagination is more important than intelligence.” Indeed. I had the good fortune to live in Prague for 2 years. Oh, the stories in those streets.
What good fortune! I have just read some of your stunning writing…Wow! I love what it doesn’t reveal…A cigarette burning in an ashtray in an empty room….Remnants of a letter burning in a grate…”The impression someone or ‘something’ has just left an empty room with an half open door.” You have the magic, lady. Get published! Heaps of good luck. x
What in the world was that man fishing for, I wonder? There’s a story to be told just from that line alone! Love this post, Joy, and totally agree about Diana’s writing- she’s masterful.
Much appreciated, Jacquie! Carry on with your magic…I’m driving myself mad finishing a very protracted book..Will it ever be good enough?!. It’s to be called “Rebecca, and the Making of Lettuce Dombrowski”….Hugs x
Such a great post and it is wonderful you have kept all your travel journals. I can barely read my own handwriting at the end of each day and I now keep a digital account of where we have been 🙂
Hi Tandy, Thank for reading and kind comments. There are some fascinating places in this wonderful world, aren’t there! Wishing you an enjoyable holiday, and a healthy 2021. x