Plot-chasing

Those good people instant gratification monkeys over at Google have found a new way to delay fruitful work the world over by making it possible to find a place on a map and convert it into your own little Pac-Man game.

Here, for your further edification procrastination therefore is a beautiful part of Prague. You might observe the Staroměstské náměstí complete with monument to Jan Hus, stunning six-hundred year old astronomical clock, cafes, galleries and ecclesiastical architecture. I commend it to you. Watch out for Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde however; these pixel-golems have no scruples in ruining your day as you try and negotiate the narrow streets and keep finding yourself back where you started without much of an idea how that happened.

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What has this got to do with plot-chasing?

Well, to follow up my previous post and because there is an apparent market for updates in my work (read: accountability by any means necessary) I thought I’d let you in on a bit of what I’ve been doing. What I’ve been doing, that is, when I haven’t been assessing locales worldwide for hilarious Pac-Man routes. Is Pac-Man supposed to make you hungry? I do hope Google keep this fun going after 1st April.

Plotting is going more slowly than I had hoped. I had been working on a self-imposed discipline of a scene a day, given other demands on my time. Early drafts: all terrible but useful for working forward. And no, you may not see them. However, it was becoming apparent that I might actually need to decide what material may actually be suitable in the story. I’m not really a ‘Start at the very beginning’ kinda gal. But I do know a couple of my characters really well now and some of the plot elements and some twisty bits and a number of the names and I think I know where I want to end up, but some of it is still up for discussion and plays around in my head every night like a game on a loop. And all the while Blinky is following me like some lost stag party, Pinky keeps getting in my way at the pace of a guided tour group, Inky wants to sell me something I’m not convinced I really need and Clyde needs his mummy.

I decided to research how to plot, and discovered that Someone Who Knows suggests that I need to map it all out very tightly. And Someone Else Who Also Knows says otherwise and that I need to start with my characters and see where they take me. I’ve been listening to my characters very closely, but I don’t think they know as much as they ought to because they keep doing silly things and I suspect I need to Take Charge a little more and the characters aren’t going to like it. However, the main reason the plot is going slowly is because I have to plot in parallel, and I’ve been putting that off.

My book is telling two things at once (to my knowledge; perhaps more to anyone who ever gets to read it). There is the surface plot, which ought to abide by regular modern rules of plottage. And there is a secondary pattern, informed by ancient rhetoric devices pertinent to the setting. It makes sense in my head and in what I want to achieve. However, squaring these two ‘plots’ off means being prepared to step out of my two-dimensional Pac-World and view the story from a lot of different angles to get the best measure of How To Go About This Best. Like Sudoku in 3D. Or finding your way around Real Prague, by memory.

Alongside these plot questions, I am still working through questions of detail which may impact so closely on the writing style and voice(s) of my narrator that all I have written thus far may need serious editing at the very least. This is fine, but an early answer to this one may save a lot of time later.

And I have much more research to do as I progress. I am dealing with a time in history which is rich and fascinating, in a place very different from what I know best, but I am a stickler for anachronisms. I want to know that I did my utmost to get the details right. Some of my early scenes may only be practice runs as I am learning how to put things together and I take various creative liberties. Notes on what is based on something We Know as opposed to something I Thought Sounded Right need to be updated as I go, at least for my own sanity. Despite a Master’s in this period I feel I know very little and have been working on revising my ancient language skills, visiting museums, looking up various details online and turning thoughts over and over. One character has a condition I know little about and a friend has lent me a lot of books I need to go through.

It sounds as if I have done a lot. If only that were true. I have not written enough, but I want to improve that, ideally by having a map of what must be achieved and a fair idea of what I can and cannot actually manage. I cannot eliminate everything that absorbs my time as a mum, so progress is slow. Blinky and Pinky and the rest need feeding, transporting, attention. In every direction plot points of the story need processing, moving around, gobbling up ……

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… I want to travel every road, however travelled it may be. I think some of my characters want to as well. However, I can only do one road at a time. The process is rather iterative and once I have it sussed out I will be able to write a book about How Not To Do It.

That is, if I manage to work out how.

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