Tuesday, 5 June 2012

You don't have to be right, just convincing

I've just biked from my workshop in Hoxton to the Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe. A good day to do it, though the weather is cold and blustery. (Call this June? Huh!) Few cars and vans, just red buses careering around in packs with a gleeful freedom non-Bank Holiday traffic does not allow.

I went to get a feel for the building close to, and take some photos, as part of my WIP is set there. In my fictional 2018 London, twenty metres of snow cover the city, and only the taller buildings are visible. One of my characters conceals his snowmobile inside the Gherkin. I've studied the website carefully. Of course, what I'd really like is to wander round the building, camera in hand, but this is not possible. Luckily, it's not necessary either. I can make it up.

Because in fiction, you don't need to be right, just convincing. I don't know any Security Service officers, but no readers have yet complained that Nick Cavanagh in Replica is an unbelievable MI5 spec op. Probably because they don't know any either. Nor has anyone said the scene set in the Dorchester in Remix with information gleaned from their website and Google Street View lacks verisimilitude.

My advice: do all the research you can, go to the places that figure in your books, talk to people doing the jobs your characters do if at all possible - then make the rest up. Do it well, and nobody will know.

N.B. If any Security Service Officers are reading this and wish to put me right, email me - I'm very discreet :o)


  1. Hopefully The Gherkin will open its doors again for the Open House event this year. I think they only opened once a few years back but it was so over subscribed they stopped!

    Ooh don't forget to mention the Shard! LOL!

    Take care

  2. Kitty, rest assured, the Shard gets a mention. These days I go round London with a speculative eye, counting storeys to work out what would be showing above twenty metres of snow...

    And I've got a handy chart showing London's tallest buildings.

  3. 20 metres of snow! Sounds both intriguing and chilly... Can't wait to read it.

  4. Yes, I should really be writing a warmer book after Replica. I don't much like the cold.

  5. I think my fourth-floor flat just makes it. Phew!

    Definitely sounds interesting. I've often wondered what would happen for example if a tsunami came up the Thames (I know, I'm weird...).

  6. Then here are two links for you, Oracle - the Gherkin in the programme Life After People: and this handy site to check how your area would be affected by different levels of flooding up to 60 metres:

    (I'm not sure four floors are enough under 20 metres of snow, unless your ceilings are exceptionally high...)

  7. I had a real sense of place in Remix so I'm thinking whatever level of research you do works!

    And yes, fiction is all about making it up but making it believable. That's not as easy as you make it look!

  8. Thanks, FH. Mostly I stick to London and use places I know or can go to. It's certainly easier to write a scene set somewhere specific you have visited. My WIP heroine lives in a flat in B├ęzier by Old Street roundabout, and the manager there was kind enough to let me look round a couple of show flats. That really helped.

  9. 2018 seems a bit soon for the next ice age, but Fred Hoyle had a theory that ice ages could develop very quickly when the winter snow fails to melt.

    I love it when real locations are used in fiction. I spent six years studying in London so got to know it quite well. But won't people reading your book in 2018 feel a little odd? Especially as the globe is supposed to be warming.

    Or are we talking a freak one-off storm.

    I can't wait to read it! *smile*

  10. Q, I think I read Fred Hoyle's theories ages ago, and they may indeed have provided the spark for this novel. I'll look him up. These days we seem to be getting so much record-breaking weather - hottest, coldest, wettest, driest etc., making a sudden climate change a tad more credible.

    You have a point about 2018. I remember feeling a little odd in 1984. Maybe I'll leave out the year...