Many writers are blessed with such natural gifts of imagination that scenes and characters tumble from their minds and land upon their pages with ease.
Others can evoke a scene entirely from their own memories with great detail. When writing of a period in history, many writers are experts on the period in which their characters live, and as long as they can also imagine up a decent story, they have at their disposal the knowledge of their favourite period in their heads, meaning little research is required.
Then there is me.
Evoking a time or place is difficult when you have never been there, and that is where 'material' comes in handy. When writing of a Victorian character living in a slum, for example, it is quite possible that the living conditions of that character would have been far worse than I, or you – stuck in our materially wealthy world of benefits and health and safety – could ever imagine.
For the last couple of years I have been writing fiction set in the nineteenth century as a hobby, and the struggle at first was creating a realistic sense of place and setting. After a short time, I decided the best course of action was research; to see as many photographs as I could of Victorian streets, courts, alleys, roads, gardens and rookeries so I could familiarize myself with the world of my characters, whilst at the same time, learning about the Victorian town and city.
I trawled internet search engines and saved what I found, and was able to write with the confidence that my descriptions of streets were more accurate than they used to be.
Then, last month, I had an idea. Rather than keep all these photographs hidden on memory sticks, folders and emails, I should put them all in one place, with a brief description of where and when the picture was taken. Why not do this online? I thought. That way, others can look at, enjoy, maybe even learn from, the photographs, too.
So, I set up a Tumblr micro-blog.
No essays, no eminent Victorians, no nineteenth century events, no people, no Victorian organizations or movements, just photographs of Victorian cities, towns, villages, streets, courts, alleys, thoroughfares, parks and gardens.
If you like, you can have a look, please follow me, and by all means leave comments.
You can find my Tumblr site here or by clicking on the link just beneath my Twitter button.