The evolution of the roadtrip
I knew from the start I wanted a Thelma & Louise-style chase plot for Charlie and Nao but this was complicated by the fact they didn’t know each other at the beginning of the book. The two of them running from something, even if it was the same thing, wasn’t enough to get them into a vehicle traveling in the same direction, at least not for long. How was I going to keep them together when they wanted such different things?
While I was still figuring out their respective motivations, I knew geographically where the girls were going to go. The road trip to Broome and beyond along Great Northern Highway was long enough, and remote enough, for a lot of what I needed to happen along the way. But I still didn’t know what they ultimately wanted or how their stories would intersect.
Whenever I get stuck with plot, I let the characters take the lead. Both Nao and Charlie have big backstories related to their families and once I let these relationships drive the plot, including the involvement of Charlie’s sister Geena and Nao’s Aunty Mar, their desires, obstacles, actions and reactions on the road got clearer.
‘The emptiness of the country either side of them is truly dizzying now she’s out of the car. A landscape she’s known about theoretically but never ventured into, now unfolded around them like a map.’
None of this was a linear process. I didn’t know how Charlie and Nao’s different stories would converge until a conversation with my geologist brother prompted an aha moment related to my fictional gold mine and theft. It was only then that Nao’s motivation got clear.
Once I knew what they each wanted and what was in the way, the rest of the picture fell into place – distances and fuel stops, weather and wildlife, the people and places they’d meet on the road. That was the point when the girls took off running and I hung on for the ride.