Posts Tagged ‘structure’

As I have decided to use Thursday posts to reflect on my writing generally, I am going to use these Sunday posts to focus on one element.  For now, anyway!

You may have heard the quote ‘nothing happens nowhere’, attributed to Eudora Welty, or as an alternative Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘nothing can happen nowhere’.

These two quotes are a starting point for my next challenge.


During one of my courses, the idea of setting as a part of plot was raised – and I remember long ago reading something along the lines that location is another character.  We have to remember its features and foibles just as we do with the people we create.

But how can you choose somewhere?

In my work, it’s generally instinctual: I feel if a scene needs to be set inside, or outside; if it’s a cosy bedroom or a dank, overgrown woods. I trust my characters to put themselves where they need to be and I follow in their footsteps to see where exactly we all end up.

That’s not to say I have no choice, of course; but that as a writer I might know I want a scene to take place covering specific interventions or unveilings, but that I don’t know where it takes place until I have got to that point.

My very first scene in my family tree novel is in a bathroom.  The choice arose from three elements: the need for the character to be alone and aware of their body; a clock, which was important in setting out some bigraphical details of the character and her background; the ability for the character to show frustration through activity in a way that met points 1 and 2.

I have faith in my choices through that story, as each represents an element of character and experience.  However, I need to work more on this in my current planning.

When developing my ideas from last year into a better, more tangible, more cohesive story I need to work on setting, and this is going to be my writing focus for the next week or two. I want to keep my settings cliche free – or if using a cliched setting do it with a knowing wink to the reader.

I can of course use places as I have done before – as a basis, a sound foundation on which to build my fiction.  Or I can create a new environment, free of human intervention, or I can do something in between.  Who knows what it’ll end up being: the only limit is my imagination.

So next week I’ll report back on what I’ve learnt this week and how my aims have progressed.  Maybe I’ll even have a new world to share with you!


Happy writing,



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I’ve been thinking about my sad lack of practical skills – specifically my inability to knit, crochet or sew despite tuition and guidance. I’m thinking about it now following my weekend at the fabric event, and the amount of decorating in wool that was done.

And I came to a conclusion – we all have the ability to weave threads together in one way or another; my way happens to be through the weaving of words.




(This is a basket.  I didn’t weave this either!)

Think about it – you take strands of stories, plait them, plait the plaits, make sure there are no gaps – or that the gaps are structural. You create a fabric that can be twisted, folded, turned.  You create images, sew through strands of light and dark, of colours and textures.  What you create has the capacity to change form.

As a writer I appreciate the creativity of my imagination but – as I have made clear many, many times – I really struggle with the editing.  And yet the editing is the shaping, the crafting.  It’s taking the raw materials – the wool, the pattern, the knitting needles – and making the finished garment.  It’s what makes a book, or a poem, more than just a selection of words on a page.

All art, and all creativity, needs more than just the basic ideas.  No-one reads Shakespeares book of possible storylines, after all; it is the smoothing of jagged sentences, the polishing of rough paragraphs, that makes writing accessible to an audience.   And if we don’t write for people to read, why do we write?

So next time I’m feeling unhappy about my lack of practical skills I’ll remember that I have those skills in abundance – I just use a different medium.

Happy writing,



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