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The First Chapter

What prompts us to take that first step to write a novel? The blank page is a daunting challenge. My prompt was presented to me at a writing group when the leader held up a copy of a famous poster.

"Write a thousand words and draw the characters into a story." She made it sound so easy!

Each of us was handed a colour copy of a Jack Vettriano painting, Sweet is the Night.

At home I studied it. The scene depicted two girls, of perhaps dubious character, standing outside at nightfall. Should I make some tea or write? I decided to write. No plot had become clear but, as I wrote, as is so often the case, a story emerged. In my imagination the scene was set in Amsterdam, somewhere that I have visited on my travels. Were the girls friends, rivals or maybe enemies? In no time, I had written 1,000 words and was frustrated by the restraint of the word count.

When the members of the writing group gathered the following week, we each had a completely different take on the prompt. It's strange how this happens and, as usual, there was much banter as we discussed one another's work.

"Next week I would like you to use another Vettriano picture as a prompt." The leader instructed as she held up a copy of the artist's picture, titled The Direct Approach. This one showed a man and woman in what appeared to be sharp conflict.

It became clear to me that this image was to form the bare bones of the next phase of my novel. At that stage, I had no plans to write a book, although I had been working on a memoir as an assignment for a writing group that I attended sometimes in Spain.

By now I was hooked and Tea at Sam's started to form in my mind. It took several years to write but my first novel was completed. Thank you, Mr Vettriano for your pictures. I wonder how many other writers have been inspired by your work.

You can read the completed novel and its sequel, Making Scents as an ebook or paperback, available on Amazon.

Sweet is The Night (Courtesy of Jack Vettriano Publishing Ltd)

Date: 30/11/2015