Last Monday night I delved into the labyrinth of Plot and Story with Caroline Green and Emma Darwin. We'd not used the stage before, with its dramatic red back drop and black curtains, but as we had quite a turnout, our biggest crowd yet, it worked really well. The resident cat snoozed on a comfy chair oblivious to the bustling room. Everyone sorted out their tea, cake and wine essentials before finding their way to a seat and settling in for a good chat followed by a Q & A session.
If story is defined as ‘what the thing is about’, said Emma, then plot can be thought of as, ‘cause and effect,’ or the engineering. Sounds simple and yet plot seems to be a struggle for many writers. Me included! Making the point that successful plotting means one thing should lead to another, both Caroline and Emma also provided plenty of plotting tips. Caroline had the practical idea of taking five sheets of A3, laying them out on a surface, then use post-it notes which easily moved about. A bit easier to handle than tiny index cards. Emma suggested playing the game of, ‘fortunately - unfortunately’, to see if you can inject the right amount of tension into your plot.
Everyone agreed there can be too much engineering in a plot although no authors were named and shamed! I thought it was interesting how often the discussion referred to film making and screenwriting. Caroline is an admirer of drama producer, author and teacher, John Yorke. Expanding on this, Caroline talked about what makes for a satisfying plot. Often it's when, by the end of the story, the protagonist ends up with what they needed rather than what they wanted. She reminded us to ask lots of questions of the material and advised through experience getting your scaffolding in place before writing the meat of the story. Before the social side of the evening commenced, Caroline also encouraged us all to give ourselves permission to ‘do it wrong,’ or make a muddle of things. That’s something I’m rather good at to be honest.
A big thank you to Caroline, Emma, Harry and Kristina at the Tea House and Martin, our genial doorman and bookseller. A big, warm thank you too, to everyone who came along last night and made it another sparkling salon. I’m delighted to say that our New Year Salons are up on the website. We are having a little break now, until Monday, 23rd of January, when we'll return for a Writing Short Stories Salon with the brilliant Stella Duffy. Hope to see you then!
Some books & stuff that came up:
Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke
Emma Darwin: Don’t Plot Just Play Fortunately-Unfortunately
Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story - TED Talk
How I Plot: The Zoe-Trope
Post-it Plotting: Julie Cohen
Write Your Novel From The Middle. A New Approach for Plotters Panthers and Everyone In Between by James Scott Bell
Do Story: How to Tell Your Story So The World Listens by Bobette Buster
Writers’ and Artists’ Guide to How to Write by Harry Bingham