I worked out the four characters in my novel when I was working in a mainstream school. I live in German-speaking Austria and was teaching English as a foreign language. I found the text book I had to use was far too easy for the group. They had all done English for four years already and usually laughed all through my lessons as there was very little challenge coming from the book.
There was a chapter in the book entitled something like “Describe Your Bedroom”. I read through it on a Sunday afternoon wondering how I was going to persuade fifteen year olds to work through the exercises. Obviously the point of the chapter was a revision of prepositions of place – “my bed is under the window, the wardrobe is next to the door” etc. But I knew that they’d all just list the furniture in their rooms, put a full stop at the end of the list and declare their homework finished.
There were sixteen students in my class, and I needed a discussion lesson with them working in groups. So I came up with an exercise in which four totally different teenagers wake up in their respective bedrooms. One was a millionaire and slept in a four poster bed, one was in prison with very little furniture at all, one was homeless and slept under a railway bridge and one had a converted plane for an apartment.
As well as the texts, I created a PowerPoint with four photos which they had to match to the stories. I told the class that these four really diverse teenagers get to know each other. I then got them to write short stories describing how that happened.
It was a really good lesson because it sparked a discussion about homelessness – none of them really realised that there could be homeless teenagers in the developed world. And they all wanted to know what happened next in the story.
That was all the motivation I needed to get on and write an entire novel around that idea. At the moment, I’m trying to find the courage to publish it on KDP…