Writing , , , ,

Writing What You Know . . . Or Maybe Not

From the moment Luke Savage, the seventeen-year-old hero and narrator of Caught Inside, took form in my mind, I knew several things about him. I knew he was an only child, came from a single-parent family, and lived on the rough side of Brookminster, the fictional English city where many of my stories will be set. I knew he possessed a lazy charm, presenting him with his pick of girls, but that he had yet to lose his heart to anyone. Most of all, I knew he cherished a burning passion for surfing.

You might suppose this last trait, being such an intrinsic part of Luke’s character, springs from a personal obsession—that, like my protagonist, I scraped together every hard-earned penny to buy myself a first-rate board, heading to the coast every chance I get to catch the waves. Wrong. For one thing, I’m no water worshipper, instead having always had a wary respect for the sea. For another, I scarcely have the balance to ride a bike, let alone stay upright on a surfboard.

So, even as I began my first draft, I was trawling the internet in the hopes of filling the monumental gaps in my knowledge. Before long, I was being introduced to an entire new language. I had enormous fun perusing this glossary of surfing terms. So many fantastic phrases—ankle snappers, mushburger, wiping out… The one that immediately leapt out at me, however, was “caught inside”, referring to a potentially dangerous situation when a surfer is too far in with the waves breaking farther out, and which inspired the title for this book.

With the lingo under my belt, it was time to dig deeper and get into specifics: namely, what board should my protagonist ride? My research took me to BoardShop.co.uk a comprehensive online store selling everything from wetsuits to kayaks. However, a fleeting browse was enough to tell me I was hopelessly out of my depth. Parabolic rails? EPS foam composite core? Head spinning, I enlisted the help of the wonderful customer team. I described Luke’s age, the fact that he’s six feet tall and well built, and is an intermediate to advanced surfer. Within half-an-hour I had a reply, recommending the Firewire FST Spitfire as the perfect board for my hero.

Most importantly, I’ve strived to capture the essence of surfing, to understand what drives surfers to do it again and again. Fortunately for me, several people have been generous enough to share their surfing experiences. While I imagined the exhilaration, the rush that comes with the feeling of flying. What I didn’t anticipate was that it generates such a sense of peace. Almost every surfer talks of leaving all negativity behind, their mind wiped clean of everything but the present, nothing existing save for themselves and the ocean. It’s this blend of exultation and well being in particular that I’ve tried to portray in this novel. Whether or not I’ve succeeded, only time will tell.

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