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  • Writer's pictureGraham Watkins

Filling a plot hole.

You might have read that as filling a pot hole but I'm not talking about a hole in the road, annoying as they are, I'm talking about a hole in a story, which is equally annoying for any author or reader. We've all read them in books and seen them in films; the loose ends that spoil the stories, that makes them unbelievable. The 'with one bound our hero was free' nonsense. The truth is I found myself looking into a gaping-chasm of a plot hole while writing my first historical novel The Iron Masters.

Arsenic poison bottle

Writing the story I faced a dilemma; how to end an unsatisfactory relationship between two of my characters. According to the plot I'd constructed, teenager Bethan Vaughn was in love with a ne'er-do well when she found herself pregnant and facing ruin. Then I came across a gravestone in my village churchyard belonging to Elizabeth Jones who died in 1816 when she was nineteen and thanks to poor Elizabeth's untimely death I found the inspiration I needed.

Let me explain the circumstances. Elizabeth, whose family farmed in Gwynfe, a small village in the Brecon Beacons where I live, was walking out with a young man called Rees Thomas Rees from Llangadog when she discovered she was with child. The couple were in love and wanted to marry but her father opposed the union. In desperation, Rees went to Brecon and purchased medicine, he was promised, would terminate the pregnancy. Elizabeth drank the potion and became violently ill. The medicine Rees had bought was, in fact, arsenic and the poor girl died an agonising death. Rees fled but later, in a fit of remorse, surrendered to the authorities. He was returned to Carmarthenshire, tried for the murder of his sweetheart, convicted and sentenced to death on the 19th April 1817.

Gwynfe Church
Capel Gwynfe

They say, more than 10,000 spectators watched Rees' execution outside Carmarthen Castle. His body was then dissected. Elizabeth Jones' grave is in Capel Gwynfe churchyard against the wall of the old church building.

Elizabeth's death is a sad true story of love and loss but the perfect solution to my plot hole. Elizabeth would become Bethan and her suitor would meet a grizzly end. Don't worry though - he wasn't the hero of my tale and, I can tell you, Bethan wasn't very nice either.


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