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Postcard Twenty-Two: Loch Ness

Over the last few weeks, to the amusement of friends I’ve ended the school run chat with the words,

‘Got to go, I’m filming videos for TikTok today.’

When I told my 15yo what my plans were, he was mortified.

‘TikTok? Mum, please don’t.’

My husband just looked bemused (he knows my social media is limited to Facebook, Twitter and an Instagram account I’m too scared to use).

‘Do you even have a TikTok account?’

Eventually, I took pity on my son and explained, much to his relief, that I wasn’t planning to lip-synch my way around Brightlingsea. Far from having a TikTok account, along with some accompanying text I was sending them to one of my Makarelle colleagues. She was putting the whole thing together into a writing prompt video for the Makarelle TikTok account.

What the exercise made me realise was quite how much I draw inspiration from the places I visit. I wasn’t actively looking for story ideas for myself, I was simply coming up with prompts that fit the locations that might give people a starting point for their own stories. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop one or two ideas popping into my head.

Our last Novel in a Year session with Jenny (Imagine Creative Writing) was all about location and a lot of what she said had obviously stuck with me as I was preparing the videos. I had to wait for a sunny day to film some of them because the story prompts I’d prepared wouldn’t have worked as well if the day was overcast. Sometimes the same location could be used for two very different stories depending on whether the location was designed to complement or contrast with the plot.

I’ve talked in a previous post about how important landscape is to my own work and how much I admire authors who can bring a place to life without my ever having seen it outside my head. I also know that I often have story ideas pop into my head when I visit somewhere new and I’m constantly on the lookout for new places to set a story. What I hadn’t expected was to find so much inspiration in my small home-town. Brightlingsea is rich with history and it’s a fascinating place to live. I’m currently using some of that history for my third novel, but that’s the history. For the TikTok videos I needed settings that could be used without knowledge of their place in the town's past. I thought of a couple of places but suspected I might struggle to do more than the three I’d originally agreed to. However, very quickly, I found myself with another three places on my list. Then I went out for a walk one evening after listening to J.G. Ballard’s ‘High Rise’ and found myself with another idea. That then led to another one. My list just keeps growing. When we eventually get our flat in Cornwall, who knows what other location treasures I’ll find down there?

One of the things I’ve realised more recently is the joy of taking a place you know well and then reinventing it. I’ve used my home town as a template for the fictional village I’ve created for my current book. Therefore, it didn’t feel like too much of a cheat when I ran out of audiobooks set in Scotland, to turn to the wonderful Terry Pratchett and Wyrd Sisters to get me through the final 150 miles of my walking challenge. It has so many references to Macbeth that I felt I could justify listening to it as I headed towards Macbeth’s castle at Inverness. I hadn’t exactly forgotten how good it was, I’ve talked a lot about my love of all things Pratchett, but it was nice to be reminded of just what a clever writer he was.

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