I have such a clear and vivid idea of where my stories take place but sometimes I forget to properly describe the locations, forgetting that my readers don’t know. In ‘Lucky Portbraddon’, I made a conscious effort to describe the settings and where my characters lived. The novel starts with the family, five cousins and their families, meeting at their grandmother’s big country home, Slake Hall. The first park of the story takes place her, and I try to weave descriptions into the narrative by words and phrases and odd sentences here and there, not one big chunk of writing.
however, when the story moves away from Slake Hall as the characters go home after Christmas, their homes need to be described. I tried not to have any other big chunks, so a short description was followed in the rest of the scene in a more subtle way – I hope!
Slake House, where the grandmother actually lives:
Slake House, Grandma’s home, was not big or grand. It was rather sturdy, square and squat on the corner of a road on the outskirts of Easthope where the town became country. There was a terrace of smallish Edwardian villas beside it, but Slake House was white with a blue tiled roof overhanging the upstairs windows. It had a garden at the back, stretching down to a rather wild and overgrown hedge leaning over the wall.
Her flat was in the first of two blocks, built among a stand of trees, looking out over the sea. It was on the site of a Victorian hotel which had been pulled down among great controversy over its heritage status a dozen years ago. The flats on the north side looked out over the sea, the flats to the south looked towards the town over a small parking area.
Ismène was glad she lived among the trees. In the spring the ground was carpeted in a succession of flowers, snowdrops, aconites, primroses and bluebells… it was probably a crime that the block had been built in the bluebell wood but it was a lovely setting for those who lived there.
There was a place to park directly outside his little terraced house in Coldharbour Lane. As usual the bottle green velvet curtains of the front room were pulled to, even though it wasn’t yet dark; there had been a time when they seemed never to be closed even at night, and Ruby had often looked in the window, seen Nick watching TV, a pad on his knee as he drew something, and knocked on the glass to be let in.
Alex stepped into the tiny hall with its familiar smell of apricots; the walls were painted cream with a hint of some inoffensive colour, and there was a family joke that the house was getting smaller because it was so often redecorated that the paint was inches thick on the walls… The kitchen was almost clinical in its cleanliness, pure, someone had said… Carla was obsessive about cleaning and Alex and Nick secretly called it the OT, the operating theatre.
He wandered into the little shower room converted from the old outside toilet. In keeping with the rest of the house it was simply decorated, plain tiles with a randomly wavy blue line running at waist height. There was a dimpled window and a Velux light so the room was bright and seemed bigger than it was. What a pleasant and restful house this was, a comfortable house…
Alex’s new house:
“12, Dark Fort Drive. Let’s go and look.”
The house was on its own, pre-war, stone clad and with a Dutch style roof. Virginia creeper covered part of it, with clematis twining through, pink blossoms nodding against the green. The high walls contained a pleasant lawned garden with shrubs and rose beds around the edge. There were double gates which could be closed to ensure privacy.
“Very pretty,” Alex commented as they walked up the drive lined by crab apple trees and silver birch.
If you haven’t yet read Lucky Portbraddon, here is a link: