Moving Blocks in Writing

Recently, at 25,000 plus words into my new novel, I seemed to be struggling with settling my story in a setting where my main character lives. Initially, a real place for which I held no joy or real excitement when it came to writing about it.

A short time afterwards, I decided to do what I had done for my first novel, and create a place.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I like the possibility that, although the story is from my head, the place could exist. So how do I go about creating a town or village?

First, I need a name. I wanted to have a Llan beginning to the name, so I searched on Google to find the meaning of the word, in Welsh and found it means ‘church of,’ and the second part of the name is that of a saint.

Therefore, my next move was to look up a list of Welsh saints, and then choose ones that didn’t already have place names attached to them.

I found three names I liked, and via another friend, I contacted a Welsh speaker, who told me which name worked best. Llaneirw (pronounced, the double L having a guttural sound, Llanear-u).

My second step was to find somewhere on the coast near the real town that I put aside where my made-up place would fit.

It is important for the story that the place is on the North Wales coastline, somewhere near Anglesey. That stretch of coastline has the A55, the North Wales Expressway, running alongside the sea from Anglesey to Chester, with the railway alongside the road, on the sea side. The entire length of the A55 has been a dual carriageway since 2001, except where it crosses the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait, which has become a notorious bottleneck. Work started on the road in the 1930’s, as a two-lane highway, which is relevant to my story. The starting point of the road was in Chester. Much of the work between Chester and Conwy took place in the 1980s.

I found the coastal site I wanted, and have fitted my small town/village into that space.

Just by changing the existing, real site to a completely invented one has freed up my mind to create more aspects of the story. There is now a church, which adds a new slant to the narrative, and the fact that the twenty odd houses are cut off from the rest of the town by the main road and railway helps add to the isolation of the characters too.

I’ve drawn a small map of the area where the story takes place in Llaneirw, which includes a derelict farm and farm cottages some of which have been modernised; a pub – The Blue Dolphin, and a small café. There is a footpath that takes people through to the modern side of the village on the other side of the road and railway, where the inhabitants of that side can walk through to the sea path. The café gets lots of custom from runners, and people walking the coastal path.

Llaneirw doesn’t have a lovely sandy beach, but a pebbly bay with a coastal walk beside the seawall, with steps here and there down to the beach.  The church is surrounded by wind-blown trees, that look as if they are bending towards it to give shelter from gale force winds coming in from the Irish Sea.

I feel far more positive about where the story is going now as I can fully imagine Llaneirw in my head. Even though I will have to re-write some of the beginning, moving forward, it’s as though a weight has been lifted and I feel far freer in my story telling.

Alongside my block in writing, another danger of going with an existing town is, you always run the danger of readers passing comments about how this or that isn’t correct. Now, no-one knows what Llaneirw looks like in detail apart from what inside my head. Also, I haven’t given so much detail that readers can create their own version of Llaneirw.

N.B. Obviously, my little map is NOT to scale – the pub is bigger than the houses or church!