Laura Anne Gilman has posted about shopping for real people, especially actors, to cast your book. But wait, there’s more. You characters wear stuff, don’t they? Use armaments? Drive pickup trucks? Live in houses? There are limits to what can be done about all this if you are writing a far-future space opera set on a FTL starship orbiting Beta Centauri. But suppose you are not?
Due to the exigencies of time travel plotting, my characters are spending a lot of time in the north of England in the 1860s. And judicious shopping on real estate sites has got me this. Yes, it’s the real life version of stately Willowgarth Manor, my hero’s boyhood home near Leeds in Yorkshire. I of course have added two or three secret laboratories, a cyclic elevator, six more bedrooms, a two-story library with a gallery, a cricket pitch to blow up in a picturesque and disastrous way, and a favorite site, marked with a rock, for time travel arrival. But these are minor home improvement details, cheap and easy when all you need to do is write about it instead of paying real dollars to contractors. What the realtor’s internet listing gets me is photographs — of the gardens, of the exterior, of the sitting room. There’s even, God bless us, a floor plan — if this were a high-end American business you would be able to do online 369-degree explorations of the place. Now I can decide which bedrooms need to be sacrificed for those secret labs! Except I will not, damn it. I have to draw the line somewhere.
So there’s a level of anal and crazy detail that has been hitherto unknown, before the advent of international Internet shopping. The great Susan Shwartz used to take her characters to Saks to shop for shoes, in the cause of character development. J.R.R. Tolkien famously wasted time not writing on The Silmarillion by drawing carpets and textile patterns for Elvish palaces. We can now do so much more. It’s a wonder anything gets written at all.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Café.