I love speaking to different writers about what sparks their imagination for various plotlines.
The idea for my debut novel stemmed from a creative writing course assignment I completed a few years back. “Hooray!” I remember thinking, as it plopped through my letterbox, “Only one more after this and I’m done.” I’d so enjoyed the course and had no plans at that stage to draft a novel; I was simply revelling in exploring the different avenues writing presented and, if I was lucky enough, might offer me.
Boy did I struggle with that particular assignment though. It was seeing the words ‘STAGE PLAY’ that did it. As in writing the opening scenes of one. Gulp! I could only pick two characters, giving my tutor minimal description of them and their surroundings, using only the specified number of dialogue lines (which was rather stingy, if I remember correctly!) to showcase their personalities and the tension and conflict within their situation.
Well, with little faith of doing it much justice, I set to it as enthusiastically as I could.
My scenario involved a jealous husband and his wife’s best friend. He’d secretly invited her round on the pretence of discussing his wife’s surprise 30th birthday party. Instead, he confronted her about some gossip he’d heard regarding a recent weekend trip the two women had taken together.
For all my concerns about this assignment, the feedback I received on it was some of the most positive I’d had.
Which also prompted the question: What DID happen during that weekend away?
Suddenly an outline started to take shape in my mind, swiftly followed by characters. I’d always veered more towards reading novels with multiple viewpoints, so instead of just focusing on the wife and her best friend, perhaps I’d give their respective partners their own subplots. Base the story mainly around that one weekend. Create an emotionally charged clash of agendas, plunging them headfirst into moral dilemmas that would test their loyalties, their scruples, their mettle.
By now, I’d started naming people, visualizing locations and venues, pondering mischievous secondary characters, thinking about the aftermath of the weekend and how explosive it could be…
And so began my story.
Where did your plotlines spring from? I’d love to know.