This week, when not enjoying the company of Rose and Si (a lovely long weekend) or preparing the house for
Now plotting is something that scares the bejesus out of me. It scares the bejesus out of a lot of people and there are folks who charge good money to tell you how to overcome your fears. I once attended Robert McKee’s Story seminar. I had a great time and learned more than I needed to about Roland (Fine Young Cannibals) Gift’s socks, because he kept slipping his shoes off, and a lot about what not to do when Robert McKee is talking, but if you buy Robert McKee’s book ‘Story’ it’ll give you the nuts and bolts about plotting without the socks and at a fraction of the price. For a simple explanation you could do a lot worse than pop over to The Blood Red Pencil and read Maryann Miller’s great post, Writing a
Synopsis Doesn’t Have to Kill You
as I did the other night when I was freaking out at the sight of blank spreadsheet optimistically entitled ‘MDM: Plot Analysis’. Having read Maryann’s post I was able to start filling in the gaps and felt back on track. There’s a lot of useful information over at Blood Red Pencil – Helen Ginger’s post Stumbling Blocks is definitely worth a read too.
The key to good plotting is knowing your characters really well. Some writers like to get to know their characters as they write and don’t do much in the way of forward planning. I like to have a bit of a path laid out before I begin. I think that’s to do with the way my characters arrive: very often a scene will come to me that’s so vivid I feel as if I’m an invisible bystander. Fighting the Tide, for example, started with an image of a young woman stepping out on to a balcony on a night full of stars and gazing across at a string of boats bobbing on the inky water below her. That was the easy part! The hard part was finding out who the woman was and discovering her story.
In the past I’ve got carried away at this stage and written myself out at about 20,000 words. Experience has taught me that it’s better to put the brakes on and do some navigation right at the beginning so that I have some waypoints to steer towards - even if the course changes in the writing. Last week I showed you the opening scenes I wrote after getting the first glimpse of Coralie, one of the female leads of Make, Do and Mend. This week introduces Alys, as I first saw her. It’s eight months after the wedding Coralie attended in the first chapter and Alys, the mother of the bride, is not in a happy place...
Things to do in February.
Alys Bowen tucked her white-blonde hair behind her ears as she crouched down in the shade of the stone wall to look at her favourite snowdrops. The dainty galanthus nivalis with its sweet honey scent was a welcome friend returned after a long absence. The pretty flowers with their trim green markings seemed to her to herald the end of winter. And it had been a long winter at Penmorfa with short days chased away by bitter winds and deep, silent nights.
Alys almost got up to fetch Huw. He’d be in the kitchen, just a few dozen yards away from her where he’d be making toast and giving the cats a gentle boot out the way when they refused to let him get to the Aga. The kettle would be whistling softly to itself with the teapot set to warm and a couple of blue and cream glazed pottery mugs waiting. At least that’s how it used to be. Alys had to place her hands on the wet grass to steady herself as the spasm of pain tore through her body and rocked her forwards. She took a deep breath as her hair swung down over her face and her eyes pricked with tears.
© Christine Stovell
Poor Alys! Now all I’ve got to do is find out what’s making her so unhappy.
Painting is 'Black, White, Grey' by Tom Tomos