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As September gears up, I’m also back to the city after summer in the countryside, and back to my desk. Will have some news to reveal next week, too!
My current work in progress is a Young Adult novel set in Ireland; my old stomping ground of south Dublin, and north Wicklow.
I have the layout – the streets and hills – down so well that a reader could navigate by it; follow the footsteps, or cycle tracks, of the characters, smell the pine woods and take in the views of Dublin Bay.
But I’m writing a court scene at the moment, and I’m not so sure of my ground. I’ve never been in court in Ireland. I was on the jury of a Coroner’s Court in Dun Laoghaire in my late teens – a very interesting experience. But I don’t know the exact way prosecutions are conducted in Ireland; what the prosecutor is called, who comes to collect the witness from the waiting area (or where they even wait) and take them to the courtroom, if witnesses are allowed to talk before or after they give testimony.
Do the barristers wear gowns and wigs nowadays? I think they do, but does it really matter?
That’s my question.
Do I need to mention the wigs, the gowns, where everyone sits in and Irish courtroom?
Everyone has their own image of a courtroom, created from movies and television. Why should I mess with that by creating a new one?
Why look up the particulars and detail each part of Wicklow County Courthouse (as I assume it’s called)?
I’ve never been to Wicklow County Courthouse. I probably never will. So I can bet that 99.9999 etc. percent of my readers won’t, either. Half of them might never step foot in Wicklow (a big mistake – it really is the Garden of Ireland, so go book a flight today), so am I just wasting my time and effort and in fact, messing with the plot by even trying?
Is it better to invent a little?
I’m not against research – as a scientist it’s the bread and water of life.
Nor am I usually against accuracy. The days of the full moon in my werewolf novels all correspond to the actual dates in the calendar of the year the books are set. I made a mistake once and had to rewrite a chapter because what I had written couldn’t have taken place on the particular date (full moon clashing with state holidays).
In this case, though, I think vagueness and actual invention might serve the story better.
It’s a bit like when the priest says, “You may kiss the bride” at a wedding.
I’ve been to a few weddings, including my own. The priest doesn’t say that; at least not in a Catholic wedding. But if you were to describe a proper wedding, it would be serious and fairly boring (seriously, I’ve looked at my watch on all three occasions I was Best Man).
Similarly, I am not sure (though a quick email to friends in the know would clear it up) if a court summons is served by a policeman or just a civil servant – or by post. I don’t really want to know, though, because my story is best served (ha ha!) by a nondescript civil servant knocking on my heroine’s door.
But should I find out?
Should I bend the plot to the whims of the Irish Judicial system?
Or should poetic licence extend to prose?
Wicklow Courthouse, above (photo: http://www.independent.ie) is actually closed until further notice, so all cases are heard in Bray – a rather different building as you can see (photo http://www.courts.ie)… Some research is essential!
Ever wonder what it would be like to have your soul ripped from your body? Adam Short knows.
Does anyone else know, though?
We might have an idea.
I still clearly remember when I got the idea for The Soul of Adam Short. It was almost exactly fifteen years ago – I typed up the first note on October second, year Two-Thousand. I was standing at a junction much like the Mosley Road of the book, having paused my bike. I stopped because I was sure a car was coming down the street, but when I looked more carefully there was nothing. It was a very strange feeling.
I cycled on, wondering what had happened, and wondering what would happen if a ghost car “knocked you down.” Could the spirit of the vehicle and its driver interact with your own sprit, your soul?
Once that situation of a character losing his or her soul occurred to me, the rest of the story took rough shape and I knew it was a tale for Young Adults, even though until then I’d written “adult.” books. The characters had to be teens. Lots of adults cycle – I still do, every day – but the symptoms of such an event would be more likely accepted as just a brain malfunction in a middle-aged person. (Yes, I consider myself middle-aged – doesn’t mean I am old, just I’m halfway through what I expect to attain, barring accidents… everyone older than me is OLD.)
And only teens would have the tenacity to go against the grain of what’s considered okay, the accepted wisdom, the proper thing to do. Some of us adults still have a little of that left, but not enough. Most of us are afraid of what “others might think” A look at the world today can show that fairly clearly. Unfortunately many teens think they’re not capable of acting on their own. They’ve been told they were toddlers that they’re too small to do things, it’s too dangerous to climb the tree, to walk home alone from school half the time.
One lesson Adam Short learns, is that life is as short as his name, that it can fly by in a heartbeat if you’re not paying attention, and the future is not something to be feared, but embraced; because it doesn’t matter, in the end, what your parents or neighbours think of your life choices. Everyone ends up before they’re quite ready, either sitting by the side of Mosley Road, or attending their own funeral, and it can happen in a heartbeat if you’re not ready. But being aware of it, it loses its scariness – and you can appreciate the little things that make a life worth living( some of which Adam loses and some he discovers), and step up to do the things that make a life great.
If we don’t at least try, well, we may as well have no soul.