So you’ve got a fictional town. It has a name, Worton, great. It has districts- Too many at first but they’re eventually cut down to a manageable level. It is still, however, the size of Bolton and any town that size is going to need a rough geography at the bare minimum. If you just throw things in as and when you need them you’re going to end up with a continuity nightmare. A good geography provides a framework for your characters and plot to bounce around inside, it constrains them and stops them getting out of hand, it directs them and influences them. It also gives the reader something to latch onto, something to help them better imagine the story.
How did I create my own geography then? How did I actually lay the foundations for Worton?
I used reality. I used the town I grew up in and places I knew, places I passed on a daily basis, for inspiration.
The story starts off in the Serpent’s fall hotel, a derelict, abandoned building in the town centre. We later learn that this is where all of the problems began, in a roundabout sort of way, and I return to it several times over the course of the story. It was based on a similarly derelict old pub in the town centre- They’ve spruced it up a bit now, though it still looks a bit dodgy. Police Tower, a bit further down the road, was based on something I once saw in the local paper. Someone was actually planning to build a skyscraper, though it never got off the ground. In Worton the opposite happened… They built the damn thing and it was an eyesore. Lupus Tower, meanwhile, is based on a a particular office block I used to pass by.
The park in Beiderbecke, right down to the supermarket opposite, is real and I practically relocated it wholesale into Worton, right down to the abandoned railway bridge in the middle (Where Will and Harris have their duel in the first book) and the pathway where the fight happens after Will blows up the nest in the second segment of the first book. The nest does exist (or it did) but it is nowhere near the real park. It is, in fact, on the other side of town. The hostel at the end of the park is completely made up but it is based on a stereotypical, gothic asylum on the outside and a seventies hospital on the inside.
Beiderbecke College was based on quite a few places, mostly the schools I went to. The exterior is based on my own sixth form college- The front and side entrances and the two main buildings, one of which is used for younger students in the books (though they didn’t exist in prior versions). They weren’t connected by the kitchens and canteen in reality. The auditorium is a near dead ringer for the auditorium of my high school, the only differences being that my high school auditorium didn’t have any permanent seating and the windows were only on one side, not two. There was no store-room at the back either. The assembly hall was based on the main hall at Bangor University and the rest is a cobbled together mish-mash of generic school rooms that you can find anywhere.
Other real places include the town square, though the real one is much less appealing, the two cemeteries (Cemetery Hill and Yogi fields), Beiderbecke Labs (the real one is much less scary and is actually an apartment block) the reservoir & the entirety of the Hood council estate.
Mender Vale Forest, now to the north of Worton though originally I placed it somewhere south, is based on Delamere Forest in Cheshire, which is where Amanda also gets her surname from. Consciously, however, I had to make it darker and thicker and more overgrown- The first time we actually see inside it the forestry commission has been out of action for a year so it kind of had to be. I added an overlook point as well, Witch’s Rock, which I don’t think exists in reality.
But of course, it isn’t enough to just pull in bits and pieces from real places. You’ve got to make up your own stuff too, use your imagination. Reality gives you a grounding but without imagination you might as well just use somewhere real. Crest, for example, is completely made up although I did have the tenement slums of Edinburgh and Glasgow in mind when it came to creating it. Will’s old school, Worton Grammar, is a generic Victorian, inner city school and wasn’t based on anywhere in particular. Will’s two houses were originally quite generic before I fleshed them out, though the ginnel at the back of the first was based on a place I used to know. It’s similar to some that can be found in Bangor and in some other towns. Most interiors are a complete fantasy, from my own head, as is China-Town and most of the Cornfields district.
However, every reader is going to have their own idea of what Worton looks like based on their own imaginations and their own experiences and their own interpretation of the books. I have my image of Worton (which is, seeing as it is my town, the most correct) but it isn’t definitive. It might help me to write everything, but at the end of the day mine is the view that matters least in the grand scheme of things.
Building Worton is a series of posts going behind and beyond the scenes of the Dark Legend books- Spawn, Swarm, Stop The Cavalry and Sting. All are available from Amazon (including in paperback) and other eBook retailers.