Letting the imagination free wheel

Bath chairSome of my friends have said “Where do you get your ideas?” No doubt it differs from writer to writer, but if you’re interested in the way my mind works, here’s an example.

I’ve found that not writing on my novel on Sunday is having unexpected side effects. My imagination, which continues producing plot lines and snippets of dialogue, goes off at tangents while I’m paying attention to 2014. Snarls in Farewell to Kindness untangle themselves. New ideas for the next three books slip into those evolving plots. And whole new sets of characters and story ideas beg for a wee bit of brain time.

The weekend before last, two characters with cameo spots in Farewell to Kindness demanded their own story.And they’re going to get it. Look before Christmas for a free short story or novella (not sure yet) about how Viscount Avery (also known as Candle because he is tall and thin and has red hair) meets Minerva Bradshaw, who makes wheeled chairs for invalids.

The first seeds were planted when I was populating the village where Elizabeth, my heroine, lives. I had a block of land in behind the row of workers’ cottages that Elizabeth and her family live in. I decided to make it one estate; a comfortable gentleman’s detached house and garden belonging to a retired manufactory owner, called Bradshaw.

But why would the Bradshaws move to a tiny village on the edge of the Cotswolds? I decided that they wanted to be nearer to their daughter, who had married a peer. And, because he was a peer, they didn’t want to be too close, in case they embarrassed the Viscount and his new wife. The manufacturer’s daughter, Lady Avery, was now waiting in the wings, ready for her entrance.

A couple of months later, my hero and heroine went to an assembly in a nearby country town. The assembly has been organised by a group of local women, including the social climbing doctor’s wife and the local Baroness who is my villainess and a complete snob.

I needed a target for the Baroness’s snobbery, and fortunately Lady Avery was right there. So I put her on the committee of patronesses.

I also realised that I needed my secondary lead, Alex, who had been sent home to recuperate after breaking one leg and being shot in the other, to be mobile for a later scene, so I took the opportunity while he was having dinner at the doctor’s house to let him borrow a Bath Chair. In a prescient move, I explained that the chair had belonged to Lord Avery’s mother, and Lady Avery had donated it to the doctor when her mother-in-law died.

Which brings us to the Sunday in question. On Saturday evening, I’d been writing about what happened at the assembly, and the villain, feeling insulted by Alex, had sabotaged the chair.

It occurred to me that Bradshaw could be a retired carriage maker, and so he could diagnose that the collapse was foul play, and not fair wear and tear. Then I thought how much more fun it would be if his daughter provided the diagnosis, which would make her, as a tradesperson herself, even more of a target for the Baroness’s scorn.

By the end of the day, she was fully formed in my mind – an only daughter, born to older parents and their dear delight. With a bluestocking mother and a highly successful father, she is given the education of a lady, but loves best to follow her father around the manufactory. He does mainly design, but he teaches her to handle tools, and she turns her skills to designing and producing chairs for invalids.

In the real world, John Dawson invented the Bath Chair in 1783. [Or did he? See my post on the history of wheelchairs.] In my putative short story, Bradshaw Coaches is giving him a run for his money by 1805, when young Randall Avery comes looking for something a bit special in the way of chairs for his invalid mother.

And is directed to a workshop to consult with ‘Min Bradshaw’. Benjamin or Dominic, he wonders? Minerva is working on the undercarriage of a nearly completed chair.

The overalls were filled by a delightfully female rear. His stunned brain, impaired by the sudden loss of blood to other regions, could only think “definitely not a Benjamin or a Dominic.”

“Hand me that wrench.” The voice was undeniably female, too, with husky overtones that made him think… all sorts of things he shouldn’t think about an innocent, even if she was a tradesman’s daughter.

I’ve been researching the history of wheelchairs, which is meat for another blog post.


3 thoughts on “Letting the imagination free wheel

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