This is how it began. My sister Anna, a brilliant and witty writer, suggested that we should try to write a romance novel according to the guidelines published by Mills & Boon. Not as easy as it sounds, apparently. She created a finely judged opening paragraph and sent it to me. And, intoxicated by the stylistic possibilities that are simply not offered by my usual literary output of press releases on Bedfordshire’s latest social housing project, I have taken up the gauntlet. The idea is that we will take it in turns to develop the story, in full view of you, dear reader.

We are taking this project seriously, but I am already acutely aware that writing about simmering desire with one’s own sister might be possible only with tongue tentatively in cheek. We have agreed not to discuss our plot ideas, so the novel will unfold as unpredictably to us as to our readers. This could lead to trouble later on, but for now it seems a very liberating way to start.

Who knows where this project will take us? To the dizzying heights of publication by the world’s leading romance brand? Probably not. But wherever we end up, it should be fun getting there…

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Part 12 – Childish Plots

‘Daddy,’ says my daughter, ‘I really want to know what your story is about.’

‘Dunno,’ I reply, truthfully. It’s a relief to have this built-in excuse to give her, because it’s difficult enough confronting the Literary Sex Issue myself without having to explain it to an eight year-old.

Anyway, no looming lust today; I have subtly introduced the hint of a dark back-story in the hope that Anna will reveal All in the next post and save me the trouble of trying to work out what on earth could be making shallow, faceless Topaz so deep and dangerous.

Sometimes I think that we could learn a lot from children when it comes to plotting: my daughter is blithely unconcerned by the shackles of logic, motivation and credibility when creating her (usually unfinished) masterpieces. And spelling, but we’re working on that.

Part 12 (by Oliver)

His mind made up, Cleft rose to plunge back into the swell, but as he did so he saw a thin figure standing beside his pile of clothes on the beach, looking uncertainly in his direction. Then the figure gingerly undressed, revealing a pair of voluminous swimming shorts that reached below its sharp white knees. The figure picked its way into the foam and began swimming towards Cleft's rock. And as it drew closer, Cleft saw that it was Terence, his face screwed up against the spray but swimming surprisingly swiftly towards him.

Terence paddled up to the outcrop. ‘Ahoy!’ he cried, and tried to scramble up the slippery, brine-streaked rock. Twice he fell back into the glossy green water; only when Cleft’s hard, tanned hand clapsed Terence’s slender white wrist was he able to pull himself up out of the sea.

‘Honestly,’ Cleft mused. ‘Call yourself a love rival? What can that gorgeous creature see in him?’

Terence sprawled panting alongside, a small rope of saliva swinging from his chin. When he had regained his breath, he said: ‘A word, Stone, if you please.’

Cleft looked down at him, the beginnings of a quizzical smile curling the corners of his mouth and his forehead crinkled against the sun.

‘I don’t know what your game is,’ said Terence firmly, ‘but I’m no fool. Topaz will marry me next week, and, believe me, I am what she needs.’

‘You?’ said Cleft, his mouth breaking into a grin at last. ‘What have you to offer a girl like that? She needs a man, a proper man. She needs real, strong loving, and I’m the man to give it to her.’

He stood up to dive into the surging foam, his bronzed legs flexing just in front of Terence’s mild face.

‘One moment,’ said Terence. ‘There’s a lot you don’t know about Topaz Eversleigh-Brinkworth. Believe me, I know what’s best for her. The millionaire father, the five homes, the designer clothes, the glamorous international lifestyle – these are just a froth on top of the life she has led. Underneath are things that are best left undisturbed. Take my advice: leave well alone. I am the only one who can be the husband she wants, the husband she must have.’

Cleft stared at the little man at his feet. Then, with a snort, he flung himself into the water and struck out for the shore. He did not hear Terence’s voice shouting above the surge of the tide: ‘Stone! Leave well alone! You cannot win!’

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