Question time

Writing your Bestseller by Bernard Cornwell, Historical Novel Society (1997!)

I seem to get something new out of this article every time I come across it on Twitter. Today, I focused in on Cornwall’s advice on story-telling:

Every good story begins with a question […] if your opening question is right, then the pursuit of the answer will propel the reader through the book.

My book is written in five parts, of which the first part feels the weakest. I’m not Surveillance image of the suffragette prisoner Grace Marcon, alias 'Frieda Graham: 1913-1914sure why this is so.

My hero, suffragette Charlotte, suffers an unspecified assault during a demonstration in Westminster. She is sent, unwillingly, to a remote house in Cornwall to recuperate. (This place really exists; I will post some pictures sometime soon 🙂

We therefore have two opening questions: What has happened to Charlotte – and will she recover?

Both questions are answered by the end of Part 1 and two new questions are then presented – What will Charlotte do now – and will she find happiness? These questions remain open until the penultimate chapter.

I can’t help thinking that this question/resolution thing makes Part 1 feel slightly disconnected from the rest of the book.

Does this matter? Maybe I am seeing a problem that doesn’t exist. If it does, I’m hoping my beta readers may shed some light. I certainly don’t feel inclined to make any radical changes just yet.

Note on photograph

The photo (© Museum of London) is a Home Office surveillance image of the suffragette prisoner Grace Marcon, alias ‘Frieda Graham’. I first came across this picture a couple of years ago in a book in Blackwell’s in Oxford and knew immediately that this was my Charlotte (see blog post Portrait of an unknown woman).

Grace’s story could be a novel in its own right. The daughter of Canon Marcon of Norwich, Grace was arrested twice in 1913 for obstruction and assault, and again in May 1914 for damaging paintings in the National Galley. She was released from prison in June and “delirious with hunger strike” cut off her long hair. Grace later went to Canada to marry Victor Scholey, a photographer who had taken pictures of suffragettes activities. I don’t know what happened in Canada but Grace returned to Norfolk in the 1930s as a single parent and remained single for the rest of her life. (See this article on suffragette surveillance photographs on the Museum Crush website.)

About Hannah

Author of literary historical fiction set in the First World War. Revising my first book, writing the next, seeking representation. Mountaineer, gardener, traveller, off-road runner. Africa, modern history, coffee, roses, films, book and unrealistic romance. NHS midwife in a former life.
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