A Novel Observed #4 – The Village

The Planning Stage

The Planning Stage

As I mentioned in the previous post, I missed out an important character from the novel plan – specifically the village in which Sebastian spends the week.

Okay, so it’s not a ‘character’ in the usual sense, but there are still details about the village that it would be good to have an idea about before writing the novel. In particular, I want to know it’s location, it’s name and the various roads, buildings, areas etc. that make it up.


I spent quite a while trying to decide on the best location for the village. Having already settled on Sebastian travelling to Barnstaple by train (via Exeter), I was looking for somewhere not too close to the coast and just off a main road. The roads to Bideford and Ilfracombe take us towards the sea, so they’re out. The road to Chulmleigh is backtracking towards Exeter, which leaves the A361 towards South Molton. I want a river to pass through the smallholding and, as luck would have it, the River Bray crosses the A361 only 9 miles from Barnstaple station, so this is where I have settled on placing our fictional village. Check it out at 51°03’01.0″N 3°52’22.7″W.


This was much more tricky. I must have tried out twenty different names over several weeks for Montgomery’s Trouble in the Underworld, before settling on Lower Barley, and that village is hardly mentioned in the book. The village in NT2S&S (No Time to Stand and Stare) is a much more important and integral part of the novel.

What I really want is something that sounds very quaint and English, while not actually being the name of any real village. I didn’t want two words, but a single name. After writing out a vast list of possible names, which I won’t bore you with, I finally settled on STEEPLEFORD. To me it sounds like a proper village name – an old village, with a church, a school house, a village green and old, thatched cottages. And to my amazement, there are no villages in England with that name. So Steepleford it is!


I am rubbish at drawing – by which I mean really rubbish – but I tried my best to scribble out a rough map to help me visualise the village. As you’ll see below, the village is split into four roads that meet at a crossroads: Holders Hill (the road that leads from the A361), the High Street, Church Lane and School Road. The boundaries of the smallholding are shown in red. In addition to this, Steepleford is made up of 14 residential houses, a butcher shop, a hairdresser, a village shop, a church with adjoining vicarage, a village green and a pub. It is surrounded by farmland, woodland and the main road.


It’s almost time to start writing the first draft, but before we begin, the issue of voice needs to be tackled…