It was something real and sad that set me thinking about writing a story about a young soldier whose death was recorded on a war memorial. There were reports on the news about thieves ripping the metal name plaques off war memorials because they wanted to sell the metal to get some money. I thought, if you thieves could somehow meet one of the young men whose name you are taking to be melted down and lost forever, you surely wouldn’t do such a thing! And then I thought, what if you fell in love with one of those dead young men …?
When you have a story idea, it never arrives as a proper story, just as a bit of one. In order to find the whole story, you have to ask your idea questions. So I asked myself, how could a modern girl fall in love with a soldier who died a hundred years ago? And the answer was obvious: that soldier would have to be a ghost. But why is he a ghost? Why is he still not settled into death all those years later? It must be because there is something unresolved in his life. What is that unresolved something? He betrayed his little sister, and never had the chance to put things right … until now. But I wanted the story to be resolved for my modern girl character as well, so I introduced another boy to be a living friend she could move into the future with.
‘It’s too late’ … or is it?
Joe, the ghost, can’t settle because he has left an important task undone: he hasn’t been able to tell his sister Maggie that he had stolen her half-crown coin.
Have you got something particular you wish that you could tell somebody? Perhaps that somebody is dead, or has moved away, or made different friends, or is an adult you are too embarrassed to say something to, or somebody you’ve only seen on television and couldn’t ever actually talk to? Maybe you want to confess something, like Joe. Or maybe you want to tell them something nice.
Write a letter that will never actually be sent, telling something important to somebody particular.
If you are stuck for an idea, then write the letter that Joe might have written to Maggie when he was fighting in France and had just got his first wages.