Living in an Immaterial World

I’m back from Japan, where I had a lovely time with both my intimate and my extended family. We ate, drank, walked the touristy route I always walk whenever I visit (the mountain trails at Arashiyama; the shopping maze at Kawaramachi dori; the delectable tempura at Yoshikawa Inn), as well as our usual visits to friends in Tsu (where, this year, we saw the Ama divers at Toba) and Sanda (where we always get treated to the most scrumptious home barbecue). While I did all this, though, in the back of my mind, I was still thinking about the men and women of Fearless.

The story takes place mostly in the fictional village of Harbram, based loosely on lovely Porthtowan, along the north Cornwall coast, where I have extended family on the other side. It’s more than a stone’s throw from Kyoto, of course, but the principles of writing it are the same ones I took for writing characters in Japan.

The cliffs at Porthtowan, inspiration for Harbram

First, there’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in the culture of your characters, especially your main character. Not everyone can indulge in a two-week vacation in their MC’s culture or experience it firsthand, but there are ways around that. Read up on your subject: history, lifestyle, idiosyncrasies; the Internet is a bountiful and endless source of information about this sort of thing (also many times erroneous, so do be certain to double-check your resources). Talk to people who live the lives of your characters, in experience, background, even outlook. With so much programming out there, it’s likely you can even find some television shows or movies about your subject! (Be mindful of artistic license with this one, though.)

All this is to say, you don’t have to rely solely on your imagination to create the world in which your characters live. Many times, you shouldn’t rely only on your own brain, because you will probably be missing out on a lot of important facts or details that can end up making or breaking your story. (I cringe every time I read a story set in Japan where characters do not take off their shoes before entering the house!)

There’s a lot of information available at your fingertips. Use it to build a full, lush, beautiful world in which your characters will play, dream, cry, and live.

Porthtowan’s Mount Hawke footpath, the inspiration for my Crow’s Point path.

What techniques do you use to create your characters’ world?


9 thoughts on “Living in an Immaterial World

  1. Can I just say, that Yoshikawa Inn looks so beautiful and peaceful! I want my house to look like that!

    As you say, with the internet at our fingertips, there is really no reason to make silly errors about factual information!


    • Thank you, Vanessa.

      The great thing about Yoshikawa Inn is that it’s only about 2 blocks away from that huge shopping street (Kawaramachi), yet it’s still so peaceful. It’s not inexpensive by any means, but going there for lunch, at least, gives one a bit of respite from the hurly-burly. πŸ™‚

      I don’t like relying too much on the Internet, but it is a great (free) resource.


  2. Fancy place. I might need to borrow that pic of the inn for future chapters of “Red.” πŸ˜€ Looks like you enjoyed a well-deserved vacation!

    As for creating my characters’ world, I think I get inspiration and information from everything around me. The internet is good for looking up clothes, daily life and whatnot, but also reading literature with a similar time period or idea to my stuff helps, too.

    Welcome back!


    • Thanks, spooney!

      Are you thinking about continuing with “Red”? Last I remember, I’d thought you’d said you’d put that one away. (Yoshikawa Inn is, in fact, very lovely. Super-expensive, though. I couldn’t stay there – just went for the somewhat more reasonably-priced lunch!)


      • After posting that last chapter, I started planning out how the next one should go, so I guess I can’t bring myself to quit writing it until it’s really done. I got a strong urge to go back to it today, when this guy in my class ragged on me for writing fan fiction. Honestly, all he did was make me want to finish it just to piss him off a bit. πŸ˜€


  3. Welcome back. πŸ™‚

    I set my first novel in a fictional town similar to where I live in real life. I did this on purpose, so all that important info is right at my fingertips. I long for the day when I can take a trip for the sake of reasearching a novel, though. I have a NaNo novel set in New York City, specifically Broadway. Now that would be a fun research trip.


    • Thanks, Kate. πŸ™‚

      The real-life angle is certainly handy. I remember the day when I realized why most Stephen King books take place in Maine – because he’s from there! πŸ˜€ Nothing like that personal experience to give a story a genuine flavor.

      I lived in New York City for four years while at university. While it’s an exciting place to visit, I wouldn’t want to live there again. The Broadway culture is interesting, though. From little off-off theatre companies to the international tours, there’s always something going on. Great place to set a novel, I’m certain!


  4. Ahh japan- i went to tokyo few years back and it was amazing! Glad u had fun πŸ™‚ tis good to have a base for something to inspire us- like ur real places that come together for a fictional place πŸ™‚ good idea x


    • Thank you, Jenny!

      I find totally fictional places give me trouble – I need at least some familiar experience to base it on. That’s just my crutch, though.

      Tokyo is so much more crazy than I like, these days (in my old age :D). It is a quite amazing thing to see, though, I do agree!


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