Jilly: Man-Caves & Brainwaves

Deep Thinking AheadHas anything fired your imagination lately?

Like Justine, I’ve set myself a personal deadline to finish my book, so right now I have my head down. I’ve tackled a thorny issue that I’ve been ignoring for months, and I think it’s going to work out fine, but I’m not ready to share, so I’ll post about that later. I haven’t been reading new books or doing anything else to fill the creative well, but yesterday I gave myself an extra incentive to keep going for it.

I wrote in this post a few months ago that my home county of Derbyshire would make a great setting for a steampunk or fantasy world, and I promised myself that when Rose and Ian finally get their HEA, I’ll take a little time to have fun, play with the idea and see what happens. I’ve just been Up North for a family visit, and I decided to take the opportunity to acquire some background reading.

Yesterday morning I raided the local history section of the excellent bookshop in Bakewell, and started a new TBR pile that I hope to start dipping into very soon. I planned to treat myself to a few weeks just reading, but then yesterday in this post about research v writing, Michaeline said “it’s only when I started writing that my research started forming that firm patch beneath my feet.” Hm. Now I’m wondering whether it might be a better idea sketch out the bones of a story first and use that as a prompt for my research readings.

Although I’ve lived in London for most of my adult life, I grew up in Derbyshire and my family still lives there, so I know it pretty well – but if I’m going to create some kind of alternative history and do the area justice, knowing it pretty well is not going to be good enough.

I want to create a world that takes advantage of the county’s spectacular geology. The lower, Southern half, the White Peak, is built on soft, pale-colored limestone. It’s a civilised place of steep-sided gorges and dales. The higher, Northern half, the Dark Peak, is built on hard, dark, millstone grit. It’s a harsh place of rocky outcrops, moorland, brooding skyline and Gothic follies. And the whole county, White and Dark, is riddled with caves.

I don’t know much about the story yet, but I’m sure the caves will be important, so the first book I bought on my shopping spree was Derbyshire Cavemen, by Stephen Cliffe. It looks fascinating, and I’m having a hard time keeping my hands off it. Here are just a few nuggets I picked up from my first, superficial browse of the book:

  • Today’s temperate Derbyshire landscape is a legacy of some mind-boggling extremes of climate. The limestone was created by tropical sea creatures more than 300 million years ago, when the land that is now Britain lay on the equator. Volcanoes erupted. Swamp-like forests became seams of coal. Mineral-rich liquids became veins of lead, copper, quartz and fluorspar. A more recent half a million years ago (ish) the same land was in the grip of an ice age.
  • Lions, hyenas, hippopotami, woolly rhinoceros, bear and wolf have lived in the caves.
  • Humans used them from the Neanderthal period (55,000 years ago), maybe earlier. They were inhabited during the Iron Age and Roman times, and continued to be so until the 1800s, when they were occupied by lead miners and rope-makers.
  • Supernatural stories abound. Eldon Hole was believed to reach to Hades. Peak Cavern supposedly contained an enchanted, sunlit, underground world. Deep Dale and its caves were said to be home to all kinds of elves and faeries. The Romans built a temple to the Goddess by the sacred spring in Buxton. There are barrows, ghosts, druids, hermits, a dragon (yay!) and much, much more.

I have no idea where I’m going to go with it, but I know this book is going to be a brilliant story starter for me. Just a quick flick through it has my mind bursting with ideas, and because I go up to Derbyshire on a regular basis, I can easily walk the terrain and visit any site that catches my imagination. I suspect this might be my fun side project for next year.

How about you?

19 thoughts on “Jilly: Man-Caves & Brainwaves

  1. (-: I love the idea of Mr. Darcy wrestling with wooly rhinocerouseseses.

    I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to keep two *stories* in my head at the same time, but it’s OK to read for fun and future profit. I think if I were you, I’d read widely and with abandon during your free time, but keep a file of stuff that really sticks with you. A searchable file, of course. Then you can find it again when you start building your world.

    You’ll find out soon enough if it’s a bad idea, or a workable idea. (-: The Girls will let you know. And feeding them for the next story may give you a refreshing second wind to finish up the Now Story. It sounds like you are really, really close!

    LOL, I’m such an armchair philosopher. I look forward to an update about how it’s all going!

    • Wise words, Michaeline, thanks! I definitely can’t keep more than one story going at once, but I can write very short ones and start to build up ideas.

      And I LOVE the idea of Darcy v woolly rhino or other prehistoric beastie. Maybe I should write a 500-word effort for my Christmas post. Do you fancy having a go?? I bet we’d come up with totally different efforts 🙂 .

      • I’ll do it! I can see him looking into the eyes of a woolly rhino, spear in hand, saying, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love…your haunch. And your hide.”

      • (-: I would love to do this Christmas week — you start the challenge on Sunday, and I’ll post my version on Saturday? We can bookend the week, and everyone can play in between who wants to — 500 word comments should be fine, as well. That’d be the week of the 21rst through the 27th? (And of course, we can get all ours done early so 1) Christmas week is pre-recorded, and 2) we can have our own little Galapagos of stories — each one developing in our own brain. Although, it would be SO much fun to have complementary evolution of a story . . . .)

        Let’s think about it. But I’m in for my blog post. Can you refine the rules? For example, use three of the five words, and set it in Darbyshire. (Only an example.)

        What a fine, traditional thing to do at Christmas! Storytelling!

        • Okay … I’ll do this on 21st December, Michaeline on 27th, Justine and anyone else who wants to play in between. 500-word stories/comments accepted and encouraged (Rachel …??? 🙂 ) .

          Story length – 500 words
          Must include : Derbyshire
          Plus at least 3 of:
          Darcy
          Rhinoceros
          Woolly
          Admire
          Love
          Mine
          Villain
          Volcano
          Ghost
          Extra kudos for using more than three.

          Does this sound ok? Anyone want to add/change anything?

        • Just catching up… I’m in, most definitely. But we must remind each other, or else it will get forgotten in the Xmas blur of activity.

          Your thoughts on research are really interesting Jilly. I am just trying to add some world depth to my story (in fact, can’t remember if I’ve told you this but I’m going for a full rewrite and am spending a couple of months re-planning and cogitating before launching myself back into it). What I have discovered so far is that (for me), I have to zig zag back and forwards between research and story. By that I mean, do a bit of reseach, then make progress on the actual story, then a bit more research. I did lots of reading around the late 50s before I started but, to be honest (although they helped the shape of the story) few of those telling details made their way onto the page. I’m now doing a whole other lot of reading (now I have the spine of the new structure down), looking for specific details that I can use in actual scenes that I have, rather than just general impressions.

          I absolutely love the idea of coming up with an alternate world (Derbyshire – don’t think that’s been done before!) and can’t wait to see what you come up with, Jilly.

        • Excellent! There must be a ghost at Christmas! (Or at least, in my world there should be.)

          Rachel, I’m zigging and zagging with you. Lots of research, a little outlining, a little more research, some more outlining and also broadening the outlines I already have. It feels really organic and RIGHT, so I’m quite happy. It also feels very different from my normal modus operandi, which is also encouraging. I’m glad I did the background before, but it’s there mostly for voice, and a broad narrowing (oxymoron?) of the field. The research I’m doing now is what makes the book actually writable.

          (whispers) there might be a trilogy in here. I want to get out of cold February 1899, and into sunny June and July and August!

  2. When I needed a bit of a break from 3P, I delved into my Guy/Catie story (good thing, because I had no idea the Catholics were run out of France during the Revolution…makes Catie being sent to a nunnery a bit difficult). Now that I’m back in 3P, I’m not working on anything else, unless it’s notes of an idea for a future story.

    As I said in Micki’s post yesterday, sometimes the most innocuous reading can result in great ideas. That’s how Pauline Bonaparte came into my story. Today, I was listening to Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract and solved a problem in 3P: I finally figured out why my viscount Luckingham doesn’t want to make the announcement of his marriage to Susannah. It’s funny how reading something can spark something else or solve a problem.

    • Love A Civil Contract, Justine, I think Adam’s arc is absolutely brilliant, but I can’t imagine what it sparked for you. Look forward to finding out!

      • Adam didn’t want Mr. Chawley (I assume that’s how it’s spelled, but I’m listening to it, not reading it) to post the engagement notice in the paper, because Adam’s father just died (that was his excuse, anyway…we know why he REALLY didn’t want it posted). Luckingham is going to want the same thing, but it’s because Pauline doesn’t know he’s marrying to get this money and she reads the English papers. Well, has them read to her. And she’s naturally suspicious. 😀

        • I should add that Luck doesn’t know he’s having the wool pulled over his eyes by her. He really thinks she loves only him and he doesn’t want to risk alienating her by having his engagement notice in the Times.

  3. That sounds like a great story starter Jilly and a nice way to give your mind something to play with in the background while you’re working on your current story. I love the idea of those caves and am thinking they might be just what *I* was looking for in my own story. My character’s family estate is in Derbyshire and I can just see the antagonist taking advantage of those caves for his evil plans.

    • Happy to help, Elizabeth 🙂 . The caves are a possibility, and the county is also riddled with mines – tin, lead, fluorspar, coal. Lots of opportunity for nefarious behavior!

  4. Pingback: Jilly: Treats from the Peak | Eight Ladies Writing

  5. Pingback: Jilly: Runaway Match – 500-Word Short Story | Eight Ladies Writing

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