How I regret that in my life as a reader I’ve paid so little attention to plot. Ask me about any novel that’s stuck in my mind and I’m likely to tell you about the characters the settings or the general situation, and when I sat down to write New History that’s all I thought I needed: characters and the situation that brings them together. How wrong could I be? However crucial the characters are (and they are) none of it will work without a plot, or rather a whole set of plots that will keep those people together (or apart) for as long as it takes to resolve their difficulties, and all the while respecting the characters we started with in the first place. Then there’s the whole information thing. Having decided the actual train of events, we have to work who knows what and when, into which we must also factor in the reader, i.e. how much does the writer reveal or conceal to keep him/her turning the pages. In this respect every novel, I have decided, is a detective novel.
If only I read more detective fiction!
2 thoughts on “The plot thickens (and frustrates)”
Oh I do sympathise. I think creating a linear plot (however twisted the line is) is a spatial thing, and one needs a slightly mathematically orientated brain, which doesn’t always coincide with a facility for creating convincing character and mood. It’s why I know I will never write a novel (and have never even attempted to do so!) It’s not necessarily a male/female thing, of course, but it does make me wonder (fresh from having read another Maggie O’Farrell, so it’s a question I’ve been pondering anyway) whether women are more likely to take the multi-layered, impressionistic approach to constructing a narrative than men? And maybe this is why I find sinking into a good detective novel, in which plot reigns supreme, can be quite ‘cleansing’ occasionally, in my reading diet? Gosh, so much food for thought. I don’t envy you your task!
Definitely agree on the maths thing – a subject I always hated! Not so sure about man/woman, though an interesting thought. My best plot ever (though not sure if I followed it all!) is ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters, and I find Rankin (one of my few detective reads) sometimes less ‘plot-filled’ than you would expect. Kate Atkinson, I think, could out-plot him any day!