Books Magazine

Versions of Reality

By Lexi Revellian @LexiRevellian

Versions of reality

The railway behind my/Beth's flat in the snow

When I write, I imagine the scene as a film, and I know exactly where it takes place. Sometimes I visit the setting so I get the details right. Tori's flat in Ice Diaries is in Bézier, a block on Old Street roundabout, and the manager very kindly showed me round and let me take photos. Sometimes I use places I've looked up on Google, using Street View and estate agents' websites.

Beth's flat in Replica is based on my flat, including the non-working entry phone so Beth has to open a window and lean out to see who has rung her bell. Beth Two's dash through the gardens on to the railway station describes the layout as it was when I wrote it, though the station is now larger. (Nothing in London stays the same for long.)

Chatting about Replica to the offspring's boyfriend, I asked him how he'd imagined Beth's flat. "I think of it as this one," he said. And it occurred to me, he was one of only a handful of readers who would have exactly the same picture in his head of Beth's home and Beth Two's escape as I did. 

Of course, this doesn't matter at all. If an author has done his job properly, the right reader will be able to imagine the scene correctly, though with variations. I can work out when I read some of my favorite books from the settings that come to mind, borrowed from where I was living at the time. Quite unlike films, where we all picture the characters and settings as we have seen them on the screen.

It's strange to think of the thousands of different versions of my novels that play in people's heads, as each reader brings his or her unique experience of life to my fiction.

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