Saturday, June 27, 2009

It takes an imaginary village. . .

Most children have imaginary playmates. I would be intrigued to find that some researchers have interviewed writers and non-writers to chart the incidence of imaginary friends as it correlates to storytelling in later life.

For my part, I had an entire village, called "Westmoore". It was woven of snippets of Sherlock Holmes and Wordsworth's moor wandering, and not a little of Tolkien's bucolic Britain. Like one of those mythical islands sitting on the back of a giant sea turtle, Westmoore wandered from fantasy locations to real ones as suited my playtime needs. It was a secret base for GI Joe, a setting-off point for Hobbits and elves, and a waystation for all manner of imagined heroes and villains.

Cobbled lanes pass underfoot as the wanderer enters the village. A lumbering haycart trundles past, the mists wrapping tendrils through the spokes as the farmer gives you a tip of his cap and an appraising look on his way by. Lights filter through the soot-stained glass of the Cat & Fiddle where the echoes of frivolity keep back the gathering night. Half-timbered houses wander away into the gloom and up on the hill overlooking the town, the ruined castle (there has to be a castle) watches over the bucolic scene.

By the end of my childhood, Westmoore had become anchored in an imaginary corner of the Lake Country of northern England. The Hobbits and elves had wandered off to points unknown and more modern adventures were taking place in the mists of Westmoore. My first full-length novel took place almost entirely in Westmoore and amid the rooms and secret passages of that castle. It's a book that may never see print because books by lads of fifteen so rarely do (with good reason) but it did serve to finally cement the place in the modern era.

In the book I'm currently trying to sell, Westmoore makes a cameo appearance. A teensy tiny bit of the action takes place under the skeptical eye of the matron of the Cat & Fiddle. It gave me a bit of a thrill to take my readers to a place I loved so much as a child, to allow part of my mysteries to unfold among the misty byways where I wandered as a child.

Future editors may excise it as unnecessary, or object to a journey through a very real swath of England that ends in an imaginary village. But for the moment, it lives and breathes once more -- an imaginary village where Wordsworth walked arm-in-arm with Tolkien for a little while in the mind of an asthmatic kid crafting adventures in his head.

Welcome to Westmoore.

1 comment:

  1. Westmoore sounds very cool. I have a daughter who spent her early childhood living in her imagination, I always put it down to being an only child, but now she is fifteen and still living in her imagination, she has ambitions of being a writer. All that has changed since she was five is that the imaginary friends have become a bit more grown up.
    The Bronte sisters created complex imaginary worlds as children, and look at the success they had. Hope you have the same success the Bronte sisters have had.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).