Guest Post: Evolution of a Story by Cheryl Headford

Inspiration for stories come from all kinds of places, and sometimes it takes me on some strange journeys. My chains of thought are often…interesting, and it was certainly the case with Project X.

It all started with a train journey to work. On the train, I was pondering a conversation two boys were having about computer hacking and wondered if there was a story in there somewhere. I didn’t think it would be up my street, so I put it on the back burner.

Once off the train, I had to walk through town to get to the office. I was wandering along, window shopping, when I came across a mannequin in a shop window. I don’t often get excited by mannequins, but this one got me. It caught my attention because it was so lifelike. There were three mannequins altogether, two girls and a boy. It was the boy that gripped me.

The mannequin was sitting with one knee up resting its chin on its hand. Behind him was a poster of a boy wearing the same clothes. Both the boy and the mannequin had such sad and distant expressions! I stood and looked at them both for a while, captivated. I can’t even say now what it was that hooked me so much. Whatever it was, it stayed with me as I walked on.

I wondered what might have happened to the boy to make him look so sad and distant. Just about then, I walked past a really old police station and the conversation about hacking came back. As often happens with me, a conversation started inside my head between a boy, who was in trouble for hacking an important computer, and his best friend.

Then the conversation changed to the hacker not being at the police station, but warning his friend that he’d found something on a computer and they were both in danger. By the time I got to work, I had a sketch in my head of two college guys. One was a computer expert and the other wasn’t. The non-hacker got a call from his friend to say he’d hacked into a computer at an institution he was working at and had found a terrible secret. He went on the run, and his friend had to get to him and sort the situation out.

At that point, I had no idea what had been found and no idea what could be done to resolve it.

The next day, I was sitting on the train and heard a group of youngsters talking about someone at their school who was a stuck-up, arrogant bastard. He thought he was something special just because his father was rich. Right there, Morgan Bentley was born.

When I got to work, I opened the computer and typed “Morgan Bentley was a bastard.” That was and is the first line of Project X.

At that point, I had no idea who Morgan Bentley was and how he fit into the picture. I started writing, exploring who Morgan Bentley was through the eyes of someone who hated him. I still had the hacker story in mind, but I didn’t know how Morgan fit into it because he wasn’t the sort of person who would be into hacking.

Morgan and his hater, Matthew, turned out to be law students, which was a bit of a surprise, and Morgan underwent a transformation.

When I was at law school, I was fascinated by a boy who was in a lot of my classes. He had long black hair and more of a rock than a goth vibe. He’d come from Cambridge University, which is one of the most prestigious universities in the country. There were all kinds of rumours as to who he was and how he’d ended up in Pontypridd. Unlike Morgan, he was rather anti-social. I never did get to know much about him.

So, Morgan became an enigmatic, hot, sexy goth guy–exactly my type, and Matthew, was a pretty “normal” college guy who is covering up the fact he’s jealous of–and in love with–Morgan. Neither of them was right for a hacker.

By then, Cory had appeared, and he was perfect. When he got the internship with Morgan’s father’s company, it was a perfect opportunity for hacking. But what could he find?

Cory’s loves were computers and biology, so it would have to be something that combined those. The true meaning of Project X was as much a surprise to me as I hope it will be to my readers.

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