Sunday, 11 March 2007

Her Parenthood Assignment - the inspiration

This was a bit of an odd book in terms of the starting idea as the original plot twist was axed by my editor and I had to completely rework the book.

A few years ago I was called to do jury service. I only served on one case and it was a fairly minor charge, but a difficult one to decide on. I couldn't sleep that night, even though I felt I had made the right decision, because I was very aware that I had changed the course of someones life. I wondered how I would feel if I had sat in on a really serious case, say a murder, and had convicted the defendant. Then the what ifs started coming thick and fast...

What if my gut instinct had told me one thing, but the forensic evidence had told me something else?
What if the verdict was overturned a few years later and I discovered I'd been wrong?
How would I feel? What would I do?

The seed idea for Luke and Gaby's story was planted. In my original draft, Gaby had served on the jury that convicted Luke of his wife's murder six years earlier. She was racked with guilt after he was set free on appeal and became determined to find out if he was okay. In a bit of an identity mix up, she ended up looking after his daughter. The conflict of the story centred around the fact that Luke hadn't recognised Gaby and the problems that were going to erupt when her secret was revealed.

I was itching to write the story over Christmas 2005 and had racked up seven chapters before my editor got back to me with a verdict on the synopsis I'd sent her. She very wisely picked up on the fact that this storyline could be an ethical minefield. In the end, despite writing a whole new section where Luke and Gaby had a shared past, I decided the simplest option was best - Gaby was a nanny who specialised in difficult situations and she and Luke had never met before.

Very painfully, I went back over my seven chapters and ripped out the original storyline. The emotional problems that the characters were going to face were already there but, without the external conflict of Gaby's secret identity, they had to deepen and were brought more sharply into focus. I think I ended up with a much stronger book because of this, even if it was a pig to rewrite.

This is a lesson I keep coming back to. Quite often, when I write a synopsis there will be an element of external conflict that seems important but, as I write the book, I often find it a better idea to ignore that external conflict and build on the internal conflict between the two characters.

I was delighted to discover a few weeks later that Luke and Gaby's story had sold with no revisions. The overhaul I'd given it had obviously strengthened it. The only change was that we lopped the prologue off the front - a scene in which Luke heard he's guilty verdict at the end of his trial. Without the jury storyline it just didn't seem necessary. I'm tempted to post it here as a bit of a teaser. Perhaps I'll do that tomorrow...


Jessica Raymond said...

Gosh, you had to make major changes, then! I'm glad you feel the book is so much stronger as a result.

Jess x

Donna Alward said...

Fiona- that happens to me too. I have external elements in my head but as the book starts I realize that they need to go and be replaced by inner conflict. So you're not alone on that score.

FWIW the book sounds GREAT!