Sandy Writes – The Detail is a Google
I’m happy with my first paragraph.
A bell tolls ominously over the snow. It sketches the setting with a light touch and it has the Samurai Kids feeling nervous and afraid. The reader knows something terrible is in the air.
But as I read through my words for the tenth time – and yes there will be many more readings. I revise like Tolkien. I read once that the reason it took him so long to write – was partly because his works were so long and detailed – but partly because every time he got a little bit further along, he went back to the start and revised all over again.
I do that too. It makes for slow going but it works for me. I am an almost non-existent plotter and although I may have a very firm idea, the middle parts of the story are usually quite bare when I begin. So I need to revise iteratively and continually to maintain continuity as the story develops organically.
As I am reading my first paragraph again, it occurs to me for the first time, that perhaps my Kids are too far way from the bell they are hearing. How far does the toll of a bell reach? Who can tell me that? I grew up in Camden about 2km as the crow flies from St John’s church. We could often hear the bells.
But can I be further than 2 km away? Would sound travel a greater distance over the flatlands? Would snow absorb any sound? And what sort of bell was it anyway – in 17th century Japan?
So I type into Google: How far does a bell toll? One of the suggestions specifies time and place – the equivalent of pre-industrial early medieval Europe. It’s a reasonable match. The link takes me to a forum. Some people comment from English villages about the bells they hear every day. Another takes a comment from Wikipedia about the bells of St Mary-le-bow and calculates the distance to the villages mentioned.
One person describes how flatlands amplify sound. Another tells the tale of a 12th century monastery resited because its bells were confused with those of another 2 km down a winding valley. Someone even explains the physics behind why an older bell rings louder over distance than today’s bells.
Everything I needed to know was there. I figure given the landscape and the time of the bell I can safely set the distance between my kids and the castle anywhere from 2km to 4km. I don’t need to be exact. I just need to be realistic.
Here is the link to the discussion on bells. Everything an armchair author needs to know! http://little-details.livejournal.com/1945635.html