Castle Scenes: Part 2

This is the second post in a series of how I’ve discovered crucial details within the castles of Scotland to inspire a scene in my fiction.

Today’s post is about doors.

Tantallon’s front door. A cheerful entry, yes? Photo: Diane Magras

This door is from Tantallon Castle near North Berwick. I like the solid wood of it (oak, I assume, as my castle’s door is), and the fact that it’s pitted with iron nails. This is something easy to find in research books, but it’s quite the feeling to run your hand over a slabs of wood smoothed by the years and finger those cold iron lumps—and think about all the weapons they must have dulled!

And here is a finger of metal to create a hook, built into the castle where a bar might have held the door shut. Note the grooves carved into the stone: That shows where the original door lay.

A hook, possibly for a bar, and an opening below where a bar would have fit nicely. Photo: Diane Magras

The scene with the castle door occurred near the end of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. My protagonist was helping to block the door and slip a piece of wood into a slot. If someone was trying to enter, you’d need to hold the door shut with your weight as you put it in the bar, which would be difficult if the people trying to enter were pushing with their weight. In my scene, a heavier person was helping my protagonist keep the door shut.

That may sound exciting—and I certainly meant it to be—but you won’t find that scene in my book now; I ended up rewriting that chapter several times to create earlier dramatic moments, so the battle-to-keep-the-door-shut scene no longer was relevant. In fact, I don’t even mention the door in the final draft! But there really is a nail-studded door like this one—I promise. You’ll just have to imagine it yourself in the current scene.

Much novel research is like this: Learning details, having a clear image of a setting in your mind, and sharing only a little bit of it with the reader (or sharing a lot and then deleting it all when you revise). I like to get my details just right, even if I do cut their actual mention in a novel itself for the sake of tight prose.

Many thanks, as always, to Historic Scotland Environment for all its work to keep heritage properties like Tantallon Castle in great historic shape, as well as public for all of us to enjoy.

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