I am a story monster

There is a fabulous post over at the rejectionist on novels without strong plots:


It made me think of my first public piece of work: a play written for the school drama festival, when I was 11. Most of the other classes devised comedies, the main characters being erm, 11 year old girls. Oh no, not for me. I wrote a play about two middle aged couples whose marriages descend into crisis while they are  aboard a cruise ship. I was excited. I paced. I drank ribena (it was in the days before my gin habit) and when the muse struck, I disappeared into my bedroom and scribbled. Then I came downstairs and performed the entire thing to Big Mike (my brother), playing all four parts. (I thought the simmering bitterness between Arnold and Vera particularly affecting).

Next day, I showed the script to my classmates. They were less than impressed. ‘Nothing happens! They just talk at each other.’ I was furious. ‘Of course there’s no plot! You never asked for a plot!’

Though, I have to say, since then no one who’s hired me to write stuff has ever asked me for a plot either, but I’ve always kind of assumed that they wanted one. We construct our lives through stories. It’s how we make sense of the world. Good conversation, a great anecdote – they’re all stories with those rhythms that go back to the Beowulf poet telling his story in the mead hall. I love stories. I hunt them down, can’t get enough of them. Like a chef who gets a tingle when he finds a perfect chanterelle in the market, I get a whiff of a story and my fingers start twitching.

So, I don’t really know what I was thinking about when I wrote the talking-head cruise ship play. My classmates got their revenge though. The next year I was made to wear bright yellow stockings, yellow pantaloons and recite Shakespeare. Now, that man understood stories.



Filed under writer pontification

2 responses to “I am a story monster

  1. Just found you via Nicola’s blog. Great post.

  2. natashasolomons

    Thanks Helen – great to see you here. Look forward to checking out your blog!

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