Sunday, February 24, 2013

Descriptive Inspiration

The grassy bailey in front of Leeds Castle in England

I've popped out of editing for a quick post on inspiration for those descriptive passages. In Kindar's Cure I have a couple of chapters set at a castle. Sure I've seen castles on television and in movies. There have been numerous descriptions in books I've read. (What is epic fantasy without a castle?) But seeing pictures on the big screen and reading doesn't give you the true feel of a place. It doesn't let you grasp the spacial placement and true size. For instance, how long does it take to cross the bailey which is the grassy space between the outer walls and the actual castle? You can't smell the smells from a book or touch the coldness of the stone. You can't know whether an actual castle is damp smelling or actual dry and sterile. I don't imagine damp castles survive for long centuries as well as dry ones do. And most importantly, you can't get a feel for the emotion such a grand building creates.

Side view of Leeds Castle
Unless you've been to one.

I had the very good fortune to be taken on a vacation to England with my father. I got to see the inside of a number of castle. By no means did this make me an expert, but it did let me grasp the mood of the place to later try and rely that into words. I'm not saying you can't write about castles or swamps without seeing one. I'm just saying it helps.

Round tower at Windsor Castle taken from the dry moat

I used Leeds Castle in Kent as the model for my castle, mostly because I wanted something surrounded by water. It's also set in the countryside and is very green and natural, but also has a very open approach which fit my needs. Leeds is called the loveliest castle in England and this is by a country of people devoted to using the word lovely.

Here is a little piece of the castle description cut from Kindar's Cure:

The castle at Bellmore stood alone in an open meadow. Kindar fidgeted with her reins as she studied the approach. Built at the edge of a reed-edged, natural lake, calm waters surrounded Bellmore on three sides. The fourth side contained the only entrance beyond the postern gate at the back that had to be reached by boat.. 

Outer bridge and wall into Leeds Castle 
...A grand courtyard bailey surrounded by gray stone walls and portcullis barred the approach to the keep itself which consisted of a single tower.In this open area, watchers would have spotted her immediately. As they rode into the arch before the portcullis, Kindar glanced up. Murder holes in the stone arch revealed soldiers dressed in scarlet and gold inspecting their every move. Drawn bows leveled arrows at their chests. Her hand drifted to her sword and tightened on the grip.

Chains rattled as the portcullis shuddered and rose. She crossed into the green of the grassy bailey, waiting as soldiers spilled from outbuildings in the wall and the keep itself. A tall man with officer rank approached from the keep. They surrounded her small party with weapons ready.

Do you find visiting places or scenes from your books gives you a different prospective on them? What's a place you visited that got used in your story? Or maybe a place you wish you could travel to?   


  1. Great post and great pics, Michelle. I often find inspiration while visiting new places. The Caribbean cruise I went on last year served as inspiration for the book I just finished. :-)

  2. Great post :) Sadly, I can only write about places I've been. :)

  3. In Sacred Blood, many of the locations are of actual places i've been rather than just visited. But for some of the others, I researched the daylights out of them. Who will care about a tiny grocery store in a tiny Canadian town in the middle of nowhere being correct? Me. So research it I did.