Sometimes you have to go backward to move forward, and today I was able to take time to visit Historic London Town and Gardens, where they recreate 18th century life. I needed to get a feel for the place and for the scale of its reconstructed buildings, as part of the current novel in process is set in the early 1700s.
I've always loved Williamsburg but, as focused as it is on the revolutionary years, it necessarily gives short shrift to the late 1600s/early 1700s. London Town is one of two places on DelMarVa that fill that gap (the other is St Mary's City, which covers the years up to 1695). While London Town's imposing William Brown house kicks off the mid-century interpretation, an early 18th century style interpretation of a carpenter shop and home, plus an original 1720 tobacco barn reconstructed on the site in 1980, are also on offer.
I bought some books in the visitor center, because buying books at an historical site is something of a law, then had a snack out in the sunshine before I grabbed the camera and strolled the grounds. The buildings (other than the visitor center) weren't open today; they open next week. But it was nice to have the place largely to myself. I took lots of pictures and tried to imagine, as I do at every historical site, what the town's original inhabitants might have thought and felt, how they spent their time, what conditions were like in the heat of the summer and in the brutal cold of the darkest months of the year. As I wandered, I asked one of my characters (yes, I do that; a lot) what she thought about the chill, strong wind that belied the deep blue sky echoing the South River. Her response was instantaneous: Our home is only a hovel but I'll be relieved to get back inside to the shelter from the wind and the warmth of the fire.
The simplest answer is often the best one, isn't it? The first thought I imagined my character having was a practical one. No lofty thoughts buried in that pragmatism, except maybe to remind me that gratitude, in its simplicity, is essential to daily life.
I went backward to get a feel for a certain time and found, within that step backward, a continuous thread to tie a character's thoughts to mine. I can make that work, and that's pretty cool.
Historic London Town #historiclondontown