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  • Writer's pictureSheila Claydon

Finding a story

I'm often asked about writing a book. Do I plan it chapter by chapter? How do I develop my characters? Do I ever use real people? Do I ever suffer from writers block? Do I suffer from deadline stress? Yet strangely, the one thing I am rarely asked is what triggers a story? Yet to me that is the most interesting part of writing.I can pinpoint the taking off point for every story I write, and it can sometimes be something that happened months or even years before that has been quietly sitting and waiting for its chance to shine. At other times it is almost instant. Take Reluctant Date for example. It is set mainly in an (anonymised) place where I had such a wonderful holiday that much of its geography and ambience is lifted directly from that experience. It didn't take me long to decide to find a heroine either. She more or less leapt at me from a magazine article about dating websites. I find that once I am focused on a story everything else seems to fall into place. I'm not sure if it's because I am looking or whether the characters are just out there waiting until I decide to tell their story!!

In Kissing Maggie Silver it was the photo of an interesting looking girl in an advertisement that started it. That, and yet another holiday where a countryside ranger took us on a trek. I just put them together. Whereas Mending Jodie's Heart was triggered by a house, a horse, and a bridle path!

As they say, every picture tells a story. And I can remember why I wrote every single one of my books just by looking at the cover. A sepia photo for Remembering Rose, a cruise from NewZealand to Australia for Cabin Fever, a magazine article for Finding Bella Blue, and so on and so on.

Now, however, it is time to write a new book but one that is part of a trilogy, a follow-on from Remembering Rose and Loving Ellen. This makes it a little more difficult as part of the story is already there so whatever my trigger is, it has to fit with the previous two books. And that's where old ideas come in. The ones I've had on the back burner waiting until I'm ready. And this time the trigger is another photo, but not of a person. It is of an old and derelict watermill.

The mill is at least 600 years old. I came upon it unexpectedly a few years ago when I was walking my dog in woodland, and I was so intrigued by the fact that none of the local people seemed to know anything about its history, that I took several photos and stored them away for future use. And now seems to be the right time for it to take its place in my next book. Those who have read the first two books in the trilogy will already know quite a lot about the village of Mapleby. What they won't know, however, is how times are changing for the villagers, and the old mill has quite a lot to do with that. It's half written. It hasn't got a title yet, and it won't be published until June next year, but without the old mill it might not have happened at all. So here's to story triggers and to the writers who recognise them and store them until the time is right. In the meantime, I have to get back to my writing.

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