The ideas for my stories generally come to me in large chunks in which I find myself totally immersed in a scene for a few seconds, almost as if I’m watching a film. I’m aware that for other people this process is quite different. But however you find your inspiration, sooner or later you are going to have to assemble all your scenes, characters, images, or scraps of dialogue, into a plot.
There are as many ways of devising a plot as there are writers. But what I wanted to say in this post is that in my opinion it’s extremely helpful to have someone you know well, someone you trust completely, someone you can be sure won’t undermine you, with whom you can talk through your plot in detail.
The very act of talking it through clarifies it in your mind. Sometimes you can’t see the way forward even though all it takes is something very obvious - a tiny fragment of the picture that appears totally obvious to someone else but simply eludes you, no matter how you cudgel your brains.
I must confess, when I’m devising a plot I persecute my wife, following her around the house, pursuing her into the garden, standing outside the bathroom, wandering around the shopping mall saying, ‘I know you’re really busy but could you possibly just listen to this and tell me what you think the character would do next?’
I know what you’re thinking – how does she put up with him? It’s a question I ask myself all the time. Somehow she does, and I’m profoundly grateful. Because sometimes, no matter how much you try, you simply cannot see the whole picture by yourself.
It’s as though you’re standing outside your own house, and you’ve left your key indoors. That key is only a tiny thing, an insignificant piece of base metal. But without it, you are locked out. Then along comes your housemate with his or her key and hey presto, you can get inside and get on with the rest of your life.