I was just going to post pictures from my latest trip to Scotland because I was bored, but then I was reading a thread on an SC Braga forum ahead of our Europa League tie there, and immediately had three responses. One: Braga fans seem like top blokes. Two: Go look up Braga because I’ve never been to Portugal and boy howdy does it seem like a nice place. Three: I love the way people can get about places. And this made me think of writerly things, so enjoy Braga and Scotland-inspired thoughts punctuated by pictures of my holiday.
There’s no doubt that a good setting is one which feels real. Indeed, it’s the way any setting should be. Otherwise it’s just a place, and who cares how many bookstores or houses there are or how perfectly you can draw a map if it’s just a place? True, setting shouldn’t overshadow everything. But it is integral. A story set in Marseille will be inherently different than one in Lyonnais, even if the bulk of the narrative itself suffers little to no change.
And I think the real trick is to take into account the way someone feels about a place. Even if they dislike it, even if they hate it, I have never known anyone to be “GRRRAWRSUCKZEVULZRAWR” about every last little thing. People are complex, just like the places they inhabit. To just say “I hate this place” or “I love it here” isn’t strictly accurate.
But what is it about a place that makes someone feel the way they do? Certainly someone proud of Braga says “If you’ve never been in Braga, you have never been in the real Portugal”. But that pride doesn’t come from nowhere. And indeed, my own love for Scotland doesn’t come from nowhere either, but it’s such that in my original post I had closed with “Seriously, Scotland is an amazing place full of brilliant people and if you’ve never been what are you doing with your life?”
Ultimately I don’t know. I wish I knew, but I don’t. But I think understanding that, understanding both the way someone can love or hate a place, and why they do, is the only way to write it. Rankin’s Edinburgh is both the real Edinburgh and Edinburgh filtered through the eyes of Rebus. Just as if I were to write about my hometown, it would be my hometown and my hometown filtered through the eyes of myself. Or if I were to write about Scotland, it would be irrevocably linked to my Scotland.
Indeed, even these pictures are not Scotland as it is, but Scotland as I love.
But seriously, Scotland is an amazing place full of brilliant people and if you’ve never been, what are you doing with your life?
(These are mostly pictures of nothing because while I really have little issue with posting images of my friends (i.e. semi-liveblog from August) I feel like it kind of goes against the point. They are by and large full of snow because I was there for most of January, and, well, Scotland's climate)