Sometimes reality is indeed stranger than fiction. So much so, that when you write about it, people could query whether what you have written is plausible. However, authors use real life experiences all the time as a springboard for their books, including disappointments and the dramatic. Let’s look at an example.

Picture this fictional situation:
Location: Glasgow Airport, Scotland.
Date: Early June, the year 2010.
Weather: Expectations are for a fine, dry day with a very low wind speed.
Time: 7 a.m. The arrivals and departure screens for all flights are displaying a ‘DELAYED’ status.
Time: 8 a.m. All flights in and out are now ‘CANCELLED’ indefinitely.

What could have happened to create this scenario? And how could this situation become a tiny part of the plot of a romantic comedy mystery?

A novelist could come up with multiple, hugely imaginative reasons which result in the event above. Is the airport closure due to a major strike by airport personnel? Or, has it been caused by pilots and flight crews being unable to fly, quarantined along with their passengers because of some bio-hazard? Has it been caused by a terrorist incident? Is the airport surrounded by insurgents? The avid reader will probably have noted novels with similar situations on the shelves of bookstores.

My title for this post is ‘Writing Fiction from Reality’. What follows is the fact which resulted in the above closure of Glasgow Airport though it’s undoubtedly not nearly so dramatic as some of the above scenarios.

Picture this actual situation:
Location: Pacific Quay on the River Clyde, approximately 6 miles from Glasgow Airport.
Date: Early June, the year 2010.
Weather: Expectations are for a fine, dry day with a very low wind speed.
Time: 8.30 a.m.

I was sitting on a low wall near the entrance to the Glasgow Science Centre at Pacific Quay along with 8 other members of my family. We were desperately hoping to fly that morning but not on an aeroplane out of Glasgow Airport. The flight we were taking was with Loch Lomond Seaplanes – our seaplane flight taking us to Oban on the west coast of Scotland. Seaplanes can only fly in favourable weather conditions and our family ‘birthday’ jaunt (my brother-in-law having recently turned 60) had already been cancelled twice due to bad weather so that Saturday we turned up full of anticipation knowing the weather was predicted to be sunny and warm.

Nancy Jardine at Pacific Quay

After a nail-biting half hour wait, our tour organiser gave us the explanation for our slight delay. She explained about the temporary cancellation of all flights at Glasgow Airport. Just a few miles from the airport a raging fire was still ongoing in a disused Victorian Warehouse. The fire services had been battling the massive inferno for a number of hours, they had the blaze under control but due to the low wind speed a dense pall of black smoke blanketed everything for miles around the airport. Landings and take-offs were too hazardous due to the warehouse’s proximity to the airport runways and flights were postponed indefinitely till the smoke dispersed and the status of the fire was fully established.

I listened dejectedly, fearing that our family weekend was about to be cancelled yet again. As the organiser of the whole trip, I groaned at the prospect of cancelling our overnight hotel accommodation in Oban – again – and our dinner reservation at the best seafood restaurant in Oban- again! However, my smile beamed a short time later when our pilot arrived with wonderful news. Because his seaplane took off from the River Clyde and not from an airport runway, he had clearance from Air Traffic Control Tower provided he changed his route out of Glasgow to avoid the dense smoke.

We couldn’t clamber onto that seaplane quickly enough with our overnight backpacks, space inside being at a premium. There being nine of us someone had to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, I was volunteered and was delighted to do so, although hands-on flying the seaplane definitely hadn’t been on my weekend plan!

That flight out of Glasgow was so momentous that I just knew I had to write something similar into a novel. Hence Take Me Now, my humorous romantic mystery was conceived.

The Reality

Our pilot gave us a running commentary as the seaplane chuntered out of Pacific Quay and into the River Clyde which at that point is fairly narrow from bank to bank. The engines roared and off we glided, extremely gracefully, down river. To our left, we could easily see the blanket of hazardous smoke but the river ahead of us lay relatively clear. In a matter of moments we were up into the air but instead of our pilot banking due west towards the Isle of Jura and then up the west coast of Scotland to Oban, he headed down river to the Firth of Clyde and then flew north to Inverary Castle.

Loch Fyne

More Reality

Seaplanes fly low (ours cruising at around 1200ft) so close to the ground that it seemed to me I was able to note every blade of grass once we had avoided the smoke clouds. Rapidly approaching low hilltops made my breakfast protest a time or two en route but it was actually a very smooth ride. Flying over smaller ruined castles and some recently restored ones nearer to the town of Oban sparked my imagination further before the seaplane glided down to land near the floating jetty at the marina on the island of Kerrera that lies opposite Oban.

Near Oban

Our afternoon was just as fantastic with thankfully no delays to our catamaran tour around the Isle of Mull. The twinkling islands of Coll and Tiree beckoned in the distance but were too far to reach that afternoon since we had our belated birthday dinner to look forward to.

The Fictionalised Version

Readers of this blog post probably won’t be surprised to learn that in the romantic comedy mystery Take Me Now my main female character, the feisty Aela Cameron, triumphs over adversity as she flies the slightly-worse-for-wear hero, Nairn Malcolm, in a small floatplane from his restored castle on the (fictionalised) Island of Lanera to Glasgow, and from there in his jet to London and beyond. As his temporary general factotum, Aela ferries the injured Nairn around the world as they keep his Adventure Sports businesses operating as normally as possible. The sabotage to both Nairn and his business are the darker aspects of the mystery but as in all romances, and most mysteries, there are happy endings.

Map of west coast of Scotland

What are my Aims for this Piece of Fiction?

I hope to give my readers a tempting taste of flying in a small floatplane over a beautiful part of Scotland and also provide them with a tantalising glimpse of the other fantastic worldwide locations that my characters fly off to—Barcelona, Paris, Oman and the Caribbean to name a few. I’m hoping readers will love and empathise with my feisty Aela even if they think she’s over the top qualified. I want them to sigh, along with my slightly battered highland hero Nairn. who can be as exasperating as any wounded male I’ve ever encountered. And being a mystery, I’m hoping that I’ve dropped sufficient clues for the reader to guess the culprit—though not before the very last pages of the story.

P.S. Reality or Fiction?

I never quite managed to verify that the fire at the warehouse was arson related but the possibility led to me having the plot of Take Me Now hinge on a few instances of sabotage harming both Nairn and his workplace.

Nancy Jardine writes Contemporary Romantic Mysteries; Historical Romantic Adventures and Historical Time Travel Adventure for Early Teens. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland.

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