Writing about what you know brings credibility to a book. I’ve taken this advice to heart with my attempt to pen a novel: it is set in a village that’s just like the one we stay in – even down to its name. Castillonnès has become the fictional village of Castillac.
The similarities don’t stop there. Both are bastide villages around 20km from Bergerac. The architecture and geography of the two villages are very similar too. Even the street names are the same.
When it comes to the characters, though, I’ve steered clear of simply plonking people I know in the story. Real people have a habit of doing what they want. That’s no good in a novel.
On top of which, people can take offence if they realise you’ve written about them, especially if your characterisation isn’t overly flattering.
I’m writing a murder mystery set in France. That’s the challenge I’ve set myself for this year – but I don’t want to end 2015 embroiled in a court case for libel. So, my characters are inspired by people or situations I know – a style of dress here or a situation there – but from then on they are works of fiction.
“I’m writing a whodunit murder mystery set in France. That’s the challenge I’ve set myself for this year”
I started my work on the novel by developing the murderer and the victim. I have no intention of revealing the killer at this stage – sorry, you’ll have to buy the book when it’s published.
I can tell you, though, that the murder victim is the village mayor. You’ll find that out in chapter one anyway, so it’s OK to say so. Why he is murdered will have to remain a secret for now.
I’ve been busy building back stories for the principal characters. That dictates how they behave. I’ve tried to work in some decent subplots – and a few red herrings – too.
I have developed a sleuth and a trusty sidekick. Both have more than a dash of me in them. After all, I know myself best of all.
That should help them ring true.