There is only so much imagination can do for you. There comes a point in writing when you need real life experiences in order to write things well. You need to be able to feel things for yourself, from touch to smell to those emotional responses that no one can explain to you. It is what makes your writing deepen and become real to the reader and it can be applied to anything.
One of the main settings of my novel is an old castle structure known as the Temple Palace for its role as a seat for both the religious and political powers of the world in which the story is set. I had a basic idea of what it would be like in my head but struggled tremendously to expand upon that to make it come alive and write it down in a manner that gave it justice. For all the castles in England, I had to go to Poland in order to be able to find one that could help.
That castle was Malbork Castle. For a number of years Malbork Castle was the Teutonic Knight’s base of operations. Within the walls lived the Grand Master – their leader. The Teutonic Knights were one of the three main groups to come out of the crusades, along with the Templars and Hospitallers. I suppose it was their background as both religious and political leaders that engendered the connection I found between Malbork and the Temple Palace.
Wandering around, I was impressed by the incredible wealth of architecture that surrounded me. Even the tower used primarily as a lavatory was crafted with aesthetics clearly in mind. Every angle provided you with something interesting to look at. Not only that, but it was huge. A display of power that still resonates today. Most of Malbork Castle had been rebuilt since the Second World War, but that made no difference. The effect was still there.
By visiting the castle, I was able to firmly get an idea of what I was striving for with the Temple Palace. I knew what I wanted the characters, and by extension the readers, to feel as they walked down its corridors. There were changes that needed to be made in order to increase its depth and realism, for instance altering sizes of certain areas which were either too small or too large for the purpose at hand, most of which will be done in the edit.
I enjoyed my trip to Malbork Castle. The history, the stories, and the inspiration it contained are things that are hard to find together in a single place. Writing is something I love, and to go somewhere that connects so much with what I am writing is a privilege that I am glad to have had. I even got to see some jousting.