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The A303 – A Storyteller’s Road: On Finding Landscapes for your Characters

August 8, 2011 | By | 8 Replies More
British woman author Roz Morris

Roz Morris, UK author of the novel, My Memories of a Future Life (August 2011)

There are two ways to drive from the South-East of England to the South-West. One is the M5 motorway; six lanes, wide visibility, smooth going. The other is the narrow, secretive A303.

The A303 is the old road. The storytellers’ road.

For most of its length it is a slender dual carriageway. It rolls on for hours through valleys and over hills, further than you would think possible for a road so narrow. It brushes past the oldest parts of England. Signs point to Roman remains. Stonehenge forces the traffic into respectful single file. When you take the A303 you travel not just in miles, you sail a metalled sine wave back through time. When you trickle out at its source you might find an older kind of England; half-day closing, foggy TV and radio reception, high streets where old family businesses still rule the roost.

In winter, it is the treacherous road. I remember a terrifying drive last December where freezing fog closed in like a curtain. The fields around the car disappeared and we seemed to be gliding on an endless bridge across white space.

British author Roz Morris' novel

Roz Morris' novel: My Memories of a Future Life available August 30, 2011

All roads claim souls from time to time. I read an unbelievably harrowing account by a man whose car went head on into a driver who was outfoxed by 303’s duplicitous swap to single file. He described waking up with his wife and son beside him, peaceful and still, and him the only one of them still alive. When you travel the twists of the storyteller’s road, you are lucky to land.

When the character in my novel, My Memories of a Future Life, leaves London, she takes the storyteller’s road. It brings her to a small town called Vellonoweth. Its ancient hills seal off radio signals, so the only programmes on airwaves are from a tiny local station in a fragile wartime fort. The town is sleepy and humdrum, but beating at its door is the merciless sea. Ships go down in the bay. Waves throw rocks through windows. The hills hold the remains of an early nuclear power station, sealed in fathoms of concrete but still ticking away nuclear time.

non-fiction book by Roz Morris

Roz Morris also writes non-fiction books, here Nail Your Novel

In such a place, what else is my character to do but confront the older, hidden parts of herself?

Roz Morris is a ghostwriter, editor and the author of Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available on Kindle and in print.

Roz Morris’ website is www.rozmorris.wordpress.com and she blogs at www.nailyournovel.com. Her book site is www.mymemoriesofafuturelife.com You can follow her on Twitter at @dirtywhitecandy and @byrozmorris. Her novel, My Memories of a Future Life, will be available from August 30th, 2011.

The English highway known as A303 captures the imagination of many. For more about it, see this review of BBC Four’s Documentary on A303: Highway to the Sun from May 2011.

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Category: British Women Writers, Women Writing Fiction

Comments (8)

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  1. Wow – your book sounds amazing, Roz!

  2. Oh lovely, Roz. Put this whole thing in your novel–the entire post! :)

  3. Roz, I love those old roads. I go home to Ireland several times a year and I make a point of driving along the old roads en route to Clifden. They are tiny, curving, bumpy and seem to head off into the bog, the mountains… the Otherworld.. I love the idea of the storytellers road.
    BTW Our home in Australia is in one of those black spot areas – worn down ancient mountains to the back and ocean in front – no mobile phone reception and dodgy internet connection via satellite…
    Along with the MC, the setting of My Memories of a Future Life has me intrigued. I am looking forward to reading it!

    • roz morris says:

      Thanks, Michelle! Isn’t that the wonderful thing about stories – the control we have to choose every little detail to support our world. I’ve had many adventures on old roads, heading through moors or woods or unexpected villages. They cry out to be hosts for stories, don’t they?

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