Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for October 25th, 2014

Inventing The Woman in White

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Wilkie Collins

My first proceeding is to get my central idea—the pivot on which the story turns.

The central idea of The Woman In White is the idea of a conspiracy in private life, in which circumstances are so handled as to rob a woman of her identity by confounding her with another woman, sufficiently like her in personal appearance to answer the wicked purpose. The destruction of her identity represents a first division of the story; the recovery of her identity marks a second division.

My central idea suggests some of my chief characters. A clever devil must conduct the conspiracy. Male devil? or female devil? The sort of wickedness wanted seems to be a man’s wickedness. Perhaps a foreign man. Count Fosco faintly shows himself to me, before I know his name. I let him wait, and begin to think about the two women. They must be both innocent and both interesting. Lady Glyde dawns on me as one of the innocent victims. I try to discover the other—and fail. I try what a walk will do for me—and fail. I devote the evening to a new effort—and fail. Experience tells me to take no more trouble about it, and leave that other woman to come of her own accord. The next morning, before I have been awake in my bed for more than ten minutes, my perverse brains set to work without consulting me. Poor Anne Catherick comes into the room, and says: “Try me…”

As an example of the gradual manner in which I reach the development of character, I may return for a moment to Fosco. The making him fat was an after-thought; his canaries and his white mice were found next; and the most valuable discovery of all, his admiration of Miss Halcombe, took its rise in a conviction that he would not be true to nature unless there was some weak point, somewhere in his character.

Wilkie Collins

Written by nevalalee

October 25, 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Writing

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