Friday, December 18, 2009

25 Years - The Chalk Line

One of the questions I'm most often asked is 'where do your ideas come from?'

Honest answer - I don't know. I can sometimes give the idea of the 'seed' of a story - the tiny initial idea that sparks off the thought process that then creates a story. But often that isn't really a lot to do with the actual story. Just a tiny idea that makes me think 'I wonder if. . .'

So the idea that I had when I first thought of The Chalk Line, although I didn't know it right then, was actually the start of the way that I was going to write a book for the rest of my writing career and the process I worked on then has barely changed from that date 25+ years ago.

Looking back with hindsight, I can also see that probably one of the reasons this story worked is because the conflict in it is so strongly internal. Internal conflict made worse by a external situation that was the 'springboard' to the story - the Chalk Line itself. And yes, there is a real chalk line in the book. It was that chalk line that came to me in the semi-delirious state when I had the flu. I was thinking of a way of 'trapping' my hero and heroine - Leo and Rowena - together and the image came of a small house - a bungalow - that could be divided almost exactly in half by a line running down the middle of the house with a bedroom and a bathroom on either side. And that was where the chalk line came in.

But it was the internal conflicts that really kept Leo and Rowena apart. The chalk line drawn down the middle of the house couldn't really separate them in any real way. And so once I'd thought of that image, I then had to think of the reasons WHY (and I can hear you all thinking, it's Kate and her question WHY again) they - or, rather, one of them - Rowena - wanted to keep them separate at all. And thinking of those reasons was what helped me create the internal conflict that made the book work.

It had to be a reunion story. Rowena and Leo had to be meeting up again after years apart. That again would add more tension, more conflict to their time in an enclosed space. And they had to face up the conflicts that had come between them then. Face up to them and resolve them. That was where the conflict lay and the enforced closeness of being in the same house - oh and the fact that Rowena was about to marry another man! - was what made the situation worse. And it was only by asking myself why would they be brought together at this important stage in Rowena's life? Whywould the two of them end up in the house together like this? Why had they parted in the first place? Why would they get closer? that I ended up with a story in which that chalk line was just a symbol of the internal conflicts that had come between them

And in case you're wondering - yes I did have to do some revisions on this first book. But I'll tell you about them the next time I surface from Christmas wrapping . ..

At seventeen years old and totally inexperienced, Rowena had no idea how to cope with a sophisticate like Leo Vincent. She had naively told him of her love, had given him her heart, her body, and he had taken both, used them callously for his pleasure, and then abandoned her without, apparently, a second thought. Six years later, matured by life and engaged to another man, she should have been able to face him on more equal terms. But could she in fact? And did she even genuinely want to?

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