Villi Asgeirsson

Drafting ideas...

Month: October 2012


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am humbly following the advice of a couple of readers and relocating the Under the Black Sand novel back to where it started. To Iceland. Now that the protagonist is no longer living in an unspecified city in the United Kingdom, but a very specific part of Reykjavík, I felt I needed to research the history of his part of town.

As always, the Internet is your best friend. I stumbled upon a university essay from 2008. Read if from start to finish. Learned about a book by Guðmundur Hannesson, published in 1916, and how his visions influenced the city planning of the 1920s and 30s.

1930s House in ReykjavíkHe understood that sunlight is precious in the far north. The arctic winds needed to be tackled and that aesthetics were just as important for people’s health as closed sewers. It wasn’t just about bacteria. A pleasant city would make the inhabitants happy, and therefore healthier.

His guidelines were simple. To maximise sunlight, the distance between houses should be twice the height of the surrounding buildings. Streets should be relatively short and angular to tackle the wind. Never be straight east-west or north-south, as that would create wind-tunnels in winter.

The planning went as far as deciding that living rooms and other areas used during the day should face south, while kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms should be at the north end of the house. Houses built at the south side of the street would be right off the pavement with a sunny garden at the back. Those at the north side would have a deep garden in front of them.

It is the kind of attention to detail we hardly ever see in newer neighbourhoods.
I remember loving walking the streets built just before the war. I never knew what it was, why I loved this part of town so much. As it turns out, it is no coincidence.

Writing novels is great fun. You get to explore human emotions and their reactions to all kinds of situations. But research can also lead you to things you never expected. I’m totally loving my hobby.

Posted in novel, thoughts, writing | Tagged inspiration, novel, research, thoughts, writing

Twists and Turns

It’s been oh so quiet around Under the Black Sand recently. I blame it on rebuilding a whole attic and full time job. A kid helps as well. But enough of that.

Today I managed to get back into the story. The original screenplay took place in Iceland. As the novel progressed, the story was moved to the UK. One of my feedback-readers suggested I move it back. After thinking about this, I decided to dive back in and rewrite. It would be a lot of work. Many things that apply in the UK, don’t make sense in Iceland. We have no construction companies with a history stretching back to the early 19th century. We never had any railways to speak of. We didn’t take any serious part in fighting during the two world wars. – Yes, this book is something of an epic. – So, a lot of things had to change.

Telephone like the one in Under the Black SandI saw this as a two-edged sword. In some ways, the story would make more sense in Iceland. It was originally based there and a few things were a bit of a stretch in British context. But there were so many things that would be uninteresting and flat in Iceland, compared to the rich history of the British Empire. Or so I thought.

Before I could start rewriting, I had to figure out what would replace the 200 year old firm, the gothic cathedral, the conflicts in Europe. I reintroduced a few twists from the original screenplay and thought up a few new ones to make it all work. And guess what? The story is now tighter than it ever was. The conflict between certain characters more intense. On the whole, the story seems to be even deeper.

Funny how other people can sometimes force you to rethink things and come up with something completely unexpected.

Now it’s just a matter of getting it all done. Write, write, write until the book is the best it can ever be. I will have to finish it one day. Decide, this is it. Now, go out into the world and live your own life.

Posted in novel, personal, thoughts, writing | Tagged black sand, church, inspiration, novel, personal, thoughts, writing

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