Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Using a real life situation in a novel

Ana’s post earlier this week about settings driving a plot rang bells with me.

In one of my early (1960s) novels, the story was based on something that was actually happening at the time. There was huge controversy about a proposed development in the Langdale Valley, one of my favourite places in the English Lake District, a beautiful wild area dotted with a couple of very small villages and several farms, and dominated by the very distinctive Langdale Pikes at the head of the valley.

Someone was proposing to develop an area in the valley as a holiday site, with log cabins set among the woods. There was a lot of opposition, which went on for a long time, with appeals and counter appeals etc.

My imagination started working. Suppose a local girl, opposed to the new development, fell in love with the man who was applying for development permission? The blurb which Mills and Boon created for this novel (yes, they wrote the blurbs at that time, not me) said: Janet Harris and Philip Morton were on opposite sides of the fence. The future of Janet's beautiful Lakeland village home was at stake, and she put the blame squarely on Philip. Falling in love with each other should have been the solution, but somehow it only complicated an already tense situation.

In real life, the developers eventually got the go-ahead, and built their new estate of luxury cabins. But that was after I wrote (in my novel) that none of the new buildings could be seen from the road. I actually pre-empted the reality with that statement. Even now, 40+ years later, none of the log cabins can be seen from the road because of all the trees surrounding them.

I permit myself a small smile every time I drive up the valley (as I did last weekend) and see the sign for the holiday complex. I like to think Philip and Janet, my hero and heroine, who were finally reunited in that old story, are still there, enjoying the wonderful results of Philip’s plans for the estate!

Here’s a photo of the holiday estate (taken last year), except of course you can’t see it, as it’s hidden among the trees in the centre of the photo!



  1. Fascinating, Paula! Our stories can come from everywhere. Beauty pictures, too.

  2. That's a great story, Paula. I'm actually writing one now that's based on a house I fell in love with.

  3. Ana, I find it interestng that something we may see or hear about can plant a seed in our minds that won't go away.

    Jen, I haven't based a story on a single house, but my 'Fragrance of Violets' was based on a Lakeland village I know well!

  4. Isn't it fun when real-life imitates art? If only we could write happy endings for everything in the world...

  5. Absolutely right, Debra - and at least we can write 'happy endings' which give our readers hope :-)

  6. So many beautiful places in the world. One could never see them all, even if that's all you did.

  7. Agree, Ana - and I also think that some places 'speak' to you more than others. I've just been reading an autobiography by Alfie Bow (a British tenor) in which he says some places give you 'sensory overload'. He describes it as 'like you get eating candy as a kid'. I can think of various places that have given me that sensory overload - and the Langdale Valley comes very high on that list.