I’m starting a new novel project this month. I have a nugget of an idea, a main character with a story to tell, and a somewhat fuzzy cast of characters for her to encounter along the way.
Like my last novel, this idea was sparked by a piece of history that was significant to me as a child. In this case, it’s the story of Grace Darling, a young woman who, in 1838, became a national heroine when she saved the lives of nine shipwrecked people. I’m not trying to simply retell the story, even though it’s a good one. Instead, I’m playing around with bringing the scenario into present day and exploring what happens to a reluctant heroine. What would possess a teenage girl to risk her life to save other people? And how would her life change, for better and for worse?
Right now, I don’t have answers to any of these questions, but this is the really fun part of writing. I could take this nugget and follow it in 20 different directions, each resulting in a completely different book. What propelled her to get into that boat and start rowing? Was it love? Was it a desire for fame? Was she mad at her parents and wanted to make a point? I don’t know yet.
But as I start to dig for answers, my Grace is coming into focus. She’s no longer a lighthouse keeper’s daughter, but maybe she has an aunt who lives a solitary life in a decommissioned lighthouse. She has a brother, too, and a best friend, and she’s starting to tell me her history.
Where her story will go, I have no idea yet. Like Grace, I’m climbing in my writing boat and rowing out into the unknown. I can’t wait to see where I wash ashore.