There was nothing particularly appealing about Kingston, Ontario, when I first started writing my novel, The Great Dagmaru. At the time, I was traveling there weekly to attend doctor’s appointments at either Kingston General or Hotel Dieu Hospital. Two things inspired me to set my story there: one, I was familiar with the geography of the city, and two, this place:
I started writing my novel about a teenaged girl named Herman, who runs away from home and meets a tall dark stranger on a train. She never makes it where she is going. My initial idea for the tale included the stranger taking her to this train station – hollowed out as it is by a devastating fire – and keeping her there to serve him and his wicked magic. However, as I wrote, the character of the tall dark stranger morphed into Stephen Dagmar, a rich, gorgeous, and talented magician with a dark secret, who lives in a grand Victorian house with a turret:
which I wrote about in this post back in July: https://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/a-haunted-visitation/
I was lucky to be able to stay in the house I had envisioned my character living in, and as you’ll see if you read my July account, I even had the thrill of being allowed to sleep two nights in the turret room.
As I said at the beginning of this post, Kingston had no real attraction for me until my characters were born. Gradually as I traveled there for appointments I found myself enthralled with the city. I could see the places I imagined my characters would visit, and the things they would see with their own eyes. Eventually, the place began to inspire me, like a painting of a narrow pathway curving through a lush forest.
My story had a world.
Here are some pictures I took while I was there: here is the world where Stephen and Herman exist.
I have been back to Kingston since this trip to do further research. I found the spot where Stephen’s house will be situated in the story (I expropriated land from the government which currently houses the local airport – I doubt they’ll notice) and I have measured distances from there to various places my characters will visit. I’ve sat in restaurants, sipping wine with the ghosts of Stephen’s and Herman’s characters, and I’ve strolled with them along the shoreline.
One of the first things I ever read about writing fiction was that it is necessary to create a world in which your characters will live. I consider myself lucky to have found this amazing, inspirational setting for mine.