I’m convinced that writers straddle the fine line between being creative and slightly delusional. Our characters are real to us, we’re not above having exasperating discussions with them, and we take great delight in their little quirks.
All this is true for my character Nathaniel Lewis, barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, a title he never fails to add as though it were a suit of armour. I suspect it is to him. He appeared on my doorstep one day, legal brief in hand, offering his services to the heroine of the first draft of my first book, who was at her wits end over trouble the hero had landed himself in. Sauve, urbane and cagey, Nathaniel soon became one of my favourite characters.
Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Northern Wales with my husband, a place I was longing to visit for ages. It’s also where I fancied Nathaniel had come from. What better opportunity to combine research with pleasure.
“Come along,” I told my character. “You’re going to show me around. I’m going to learn more about you.”
You may think this strange and for good cause. Aside from having an odd internal conversation with a fictional man, should I not know more about my own character? Truly, I didn’t and this became painfully obvious when I started writing his story. He’s cagey, did I mention that?
All through that trip, through spectacular and glorious countryside, Nathaniel sulked and remained tight-lipped.
“Look at those views!” I rhapsodized. “Look at those mountains! Surely you must be feeling some excitement returning home?!”
“Madam, I am a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn,” he replied. “My home is in London.”
“But you’re Welsh,” I persisted with a little desperation. We were nearing the end of our trip. “How can this not move you?”
“There is a reason I left Wales,” was his only reply.
Then we travelled on the Ffestiniog Railway up the Welsh Highlands, powered by a historic steam engine. Nathaniel was particularly grumpy that day, and he took great pains not to look out the window. Until we passed a tumbling waterfall and pulled into Blaenau Ffestiniog. Like the water, Nathaniel’s backstory finally came pouring out.
I’ll not say more on what he revealed to me (that will be the heart of the next full-length novel), but I will leave you with a short story about Nathaniel that provides a hint of his backstory.
River Mud caps off the Discovering Diamonds blog series Story Inspired by a Song that appeared through the month of December. Twenty-Seven stories from historical fiction writers, including one from the incomparable Elizabeth Chadwick. This year’s stories are in my opinion the best yet! If you haven’t yet seen the series, I encourage you to pour your favourite beverage, get cozy in your reading nook and start reading!
To read River Mud, click here. Hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think.
And since we’re here, on one of the last days of the year, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you Happy New Year! May the upcoming year bring you prosperity, fulfillment and joy!
Beautiful scenery! I visited South Wales myself, Brecon Beacons:)
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I imagine that would have been invaluable for your research.