Research

Yesterday, I dragged a couple of friends along to do some writing research with me. I got everyone up super early, jammed them all into my tiny car and drove all the way up to the Peak District (a National Park in England).

Why? A couple years back, when I was doing the final expedition for my silver D of E award (for you Americans, that’s this strange hiking/community service/skill/sport award given out by Prince Philip), we were taken to the Peak District in Derbyshire. On one of our last days of hiking, we climbed to the top of ‘Thor’s Cave’ and I was absolutely captivated by it. We passed by it too fast, though, so I never really got any good pictures of the place.

Stupid as it sounds, I’ve never been able to get Thor’s Cave out of my head and, ever since, I’ve really wanted to use it as a setting for this one novel of mine. But whenever I’ve tried to write any scenes there, they’ve been dry and I’ve just felt uninspired. So, yesterday, I decided to visit.

To be honest, the trip was kind of more of an excuse to get out of my delightfully boring home town than for the sake of writing, but it actually turned out to be super useful.

I documented the whole experience with pictures and voice recordings, noting down all the things I missed last time or just didn’t remember about the place. Here are a couple of things I learned about my setting:

It’s disgustingly muddy there. The feeling and sound of the mud is equally as disgusting–I had forgotten a lot of stuff to do with my other senses other than sight.

I got to see my setting from all different angles—really interesting angles I’d like to explore in my scenes.

At the top and the effect of lighting. Here, the sunlight sort of dapples itself over the hills.

I re-learned how difficult it is to actually get into the cave. I swear, it’s steeper than it looks…And it’s super slippy… My poor characters.

More on lighting–it’s blinding to look outside when you’re actually in the cave.

Here, I got to experience cave water dripping down my neck (yum)…and the taste of the damp air.

I had forgotten about all the arches…

…And how green the cave actually was.

Ok, I genuinely got scared here. Right in that dark corner, it was so silent (apart from the dripping water) that my breathing actually echoed. Scary, huh? And someone had tied a rope up on the ceiling to hang down like a noose. Yeah…

The walls were SHINY and made everything glittery.

Outside, there were these trees which sort of regally arched over the path back down to the valley.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, this post is kinda holiday-snaps-esque, but I found that visiting my setting actually has helped me with creating more three dimensional scenes (I’m able to engage with more than just my sense of sight—I know how the water smells, how the rocks feel, etc etc, meaning that I can really put myself into my character’s shoes).

So if your settings take place on Earth, visit them. Or, if they’re too far away, visit somewhere similar that’s closer by. I can’t tell you how much visiting Thor’s Cave helped me!

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One Response to Research

  1. rcsambasivam says:

    Totally right. You can do so many things with that kind of cool setting. Just like with any specifics about the story, it’s better to have some aspect of personal experience with it. Like this one time, I wrote a story that took place in Tucson…so I went to Tucson. Yeah.

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