Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Adventures In Leith Library

An early morning phone call with the news that snooker would not be on tonight was met with unexpected delight. It meant I could plan a trip to Leith Library for three important reasons. 1- Research the feel of the place, the architecture and its history. I need to convey the library as it was back in 1995, not as it is today. 2- Check out what books and resources they have (would have had in '95) that would help anyone wishing to find out anything about the Glasgow Ice-Cream wars. 3- Join Leith Library (I am still only a member of Glasgow libraries after never getting round to it).

Without this kind of research I can't write another word, so the importance of gathering all this information is crucial. I still have Ian Rankin's words of advice echoing in my ear about the importance of research, and of "painting the picture with as little words" to make it truly memorable. "You can never do enough research," he said.

After work I drop Laura off at Brownies and took a walk through Leith to parts I rarely ever pass. Along the far length of Great Junction Street, one does tend to sense you are moving into bandit country, as the frequency of jakie's and hash-smoking pram-pushers increases. Over the bridge spanning the Water of Leith and past the decrepit snooker hall, several dodgy bars and housing estates that look straight out of an Irvine Welsh novel, you eventually come to the junction with Ferry Road. At the corner of this is a grand looking building, made of sandstone and circular in shape, and which is currently under renovation. This is the old Leith Theatre and is due to make a come-back this year sometime.

Adjoining this on the left is Leith Library, of similar architecture and grandness. I went in and had a scout about, acting out the role of Jackie McCann. Where would he go first to find out about the Wars and what questions would he ask the old lady behind the counter. There was hardly anything, in fact the only book to contain any reference I could find was a book about Italian immigrants. The best book they had, Frighteners, I already own, but it was out on loan.

The only way to access archived newspapers was over the internet. The Scotsman, Glasgow Herald and Evening Times all having superb archived stories from the past. The internet was only installed in Leith Library in 2003, however, eight years too late for our Jackie.

And so I have had to use some artistic license and create a micro-fiche room. This is the place where Jackie's past will be realised and the truth (or part of it) revealed to the reader. This is where the true background of his family will become apparent and alter the feel of the story, making it's meaning clearer to my original intention.

I have to say it feels superb to be writing new fiction involving Jackie. To be creating a new story arc with him and Katie is just superb; it really does compel me to think more about doing more with these characters. First things first though, because after I've finished this draft, I'll be going to work on my first and oldest WIP, A Friend To Die For.

Devon's comment yesterday about characters just turning up made me think more on the subject. In the case of Victor and Derek, these characters are superb examples of people who just turned up during the writing of the novel. They literally just wandered onto the scene either by a piece of monologue or simple action. They needed no design, because they were what they were as soon as they came into view. Even Jackie himself was pre-determined. He needed no design or refinement - he just existed.

This is one of the magical things about writing. you can't explain the feeling, you have to feel it. Characters can be created left, right and centre, but the more forced they are, the more like cardboard they will be to the reader and the less satisfaction I will get from developing them. The ones that just appeared are the most interesting, have more to say and are true characters with character.

So anyway, I spent a good hour browsing the books and reference sections. They have loads of historical books on Scotland, which I know I will make good use of in the future. I got some application forms to join the library and spoke to one of the women about the history of the place before I left to collect Laura.

I started writing everything up as soon as I got home and by midnight Hunting Jack had a couple of thousand brand new words.

Colin 12:24 pm


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