Wednesday, 10 November 2010

You can love a place and not want to go back to it (writers please note)

A while ago I read Stuart Maconie's excellent travel book on his tour around Middle England, called Adventures on the High Teas. Towards the end he reflects on the places he has been, and admits with candour that much though he loves the north of England, where he was born, he actually would prefer to live in one of these lovely southern towns.

I can't agree more. I deeply love Rochdale, the town near Manchester where I was born and brought up (now probably best known as the home of Waterloo Road, but also the birthplace of the Co-operative movement, Gracie Fields and more). It really gives me a lump in my throat when I go back. But if I'm honest I do prefer living in southern parts. It's partly the weather, but there's something else that Maconie puts across so well, a different feel, I suppose you could call it. It's not the natives are more friendly - they aren't. But there is something about the places that makes them nicer to live in.

It may be a cliché, but you really can't go back when you have changed. Not successfully. Once you've moved away and lived elsewhere it doesn't work. I really feel there's a lesson here for fiction writers. Please don't keep writing the same book, over and over again.

You may think, but hold hard there! What about highly successful series? What about well-loved characters? This misses the point. I'm still me - but I can't go back for more than a visit (or at least I shouldn't). You can still have those same significant characters - you can have a story arc that covers several books - but there is something more fundamental, the equivalent of going back to live in the old home town. As your characters develop, so should the plot lines. All too often I feel I'm reading the same book again.

Move on - there's nothing more to see here.

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