Making up is hard to do

It should be easy, shouldn’t it? Just “making stuff up” would seem to be the most natural thing in the world, and just about any literate person should be able to sit down at a keyboard or with a pen and paper and do it with ease. But easy it ain’t.

It’s not the making up of characters, or giving them something to do, more a question of not knowing how to get smoothly from one point to the next. Part of the art of storytelling is making up the bits in between the major plot points so that everything seems to happen for a reason, and fairly naturally too. That’s the bit that I find so hard. My outline will tell me that I need my protagonist at a certain bus stop at 10 a.m., but finding plausible reasons why this might happen drives me to distraction.

How do the best writers do it? There doesn’t seem to be a pattern. In some cases we just get a new chapter that begins, “The next morning Jim was standing at the bus stop well before his 10 a.m. deadline.” In others there’s a bit of dialogue beforehand to set up the next piece of action:

“Don’t be late,” she said. “If you’re not at the bus stop at 10 you can forget the whole thing.”

“I’ll be there, don’t you worry,” he said grimly.

According to David Baboulene, story is what happens in between the plot points. In other words, the plot itself is simply a series of staging posts or set pieces, but what actually binds us to the characters or their predicament is the glue that writers use to stick the plot together. I can’t do that glue very well.

Should I worry about it? Well, yes. Without it, stories are just all-action, paint-it-by- numbers processions of inciting incident, first plot point, second plot point, low point, turning point, climax and resolution. There really isn’t any interest beyond the working out of the plot, whereas in the best novels the action seems to arise out of what the characters inevitably and naturally do in the (normal) world that’s been created for them.

I’ve looked around for guidance, but there isn’t a lot of it. In fact, I can’t find any. Whilst there are any number of websites and books that will tell me in minute detail how to construct a plot, how to write an outline, how to write a scene or sequel, how to produce great dialogue, characters, settings or action, nobody seems to want to advise me on those vital sections that link everything together.

In other words, the writing that matters.

Unless you know differently?


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