Archive | January, 2015

Twists in novels

2 Jan

Why isn’t there a twist in this novel:
there’s a couple living in a hovel
and a pinstripe-suited taxman who plays whist,
so why isn’t there a twist?
A tortured priest is having an affair
with the taxman’s P.A.,
swimmers and sunbathers are spread
out all over the beach and the bay
the tourist is in bed with the receptionist
so why, oh why, isn’t there a twist?

(Bad, lazy doggerel by me to try and make a point)
One of the more amusing websites around has a plot generator and a plot twists generator. Following on from what I was saying a couple of days ago, if you really are stuck for inspiration for a plot, then they have some ideas that could come straight out of a Brazilian soap opera and some truly loopy twists (forgive the groan-making pun).

But real life is full of inspiration: the homeless person sitting on the park bench may once have been a computer whizz kid who fell apart and while doing so, so did his life.

Of course, plot isn’t everything, in fact with some people it’s less about plot and more about character. I’m thinking, for example, of Martin Amis’ Money, or, conversely (as far as plots are concerned) Raymond Chandler, whose plots could be so complicated that it didn’t really matter who murdered whom, it was, like the old travel cliche, the journey, not the destination, that mattered and that journey was peopled by unforgettable characters such as Philip Marlowe or the corrupt Bay City policemen.

And there’s revenge, too. You can make horrible characters out of people you actually know and don’t like; they are not going to recognise themselves should they ever get round to reading your book if you’re cunning enough. Someone once challenged me over a pint about the writing cliche, or perhaps aphorism, which is write what you know. The person who challenged this notion tried to cite J.K. Rowling as an example. I pointed out to her that part of the appeal of Harry Potter is not just the fantasy, but it’s also that the characters are real, at least a few of whom were probably based on people she knew.