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  • Christine Went

Recycling failed plots!

One question writers are always asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ Sometimes there’s a straightforward answer but as often than not, ideas just settle in the mind, like dandelion seeds on the wind, and take root before you realise it.

They grow, and thrive, or they grow, and fail. I’ve had a lot of the latter over the years. Sometimes, though, a failure isn’t dead. Transplanted to a different literary environment, it can revive.

Llantathan wasn’t going to be Llantathan when I first started writing it, and to complicate things, it wasn’t the only writing I was engaged in. I was also trying my hand at a feminist murder story. I tried it every which way, and I couldn’t make it work, so it landed in a folder of things which I might return to, but probably wouldn’t.

As for the other abandoned piece… well… for some time I’d wanted to write a horror story, but a believable one. One in which the characters had, alongside whatever the horribleness was, had ordinary lives. And one in which they didn’t just walk away at the end into a blithe forgetfulness. Because I couldn’t imagine that it would be like that. Surely one would be scarred for life. So I started on something along these lines but, as with the murder story, I couldn’t make it work and it too was consigned to the folder.

Then came the inspiration which would lead to Llantathan, and it felt right, but I needed two particular characters whose circumstances would lead them into the main plot. And where did I find them? In the folder! Stephanie and Marina, just waiting to be revived, and their embryonic story reshaped – recycled – into something new.

But what of the other piece? The horror story that didn’t work? Was any of that turned around and embedded in Llantathan? No, but it’s proved to be exactly what I need for Celyn, the third book in the Llantathan series. Any more? Oh yes! An unfinished mystery tale which is going to be so useful further down the line.

I could so easily have thrown all these abandoned writings out instead of taking them with me from place to place over the years. As it is, these quantities of paper are being recycled, but not in the way they might have been!

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