Monday, 9 February 2015

Plots in the Attic

Madame Defarge, there's no need to bring your own knitting...
It must be the time of year. A couple of weeks ago Mary was spring-cleaning her computer and this week I’ve been spring-cleaning my wardrobe. The clothing rails were bad enough (everyone has clothes that don’t fit, but by THREE SIZES?) but the shelves above them were enough to give even the most ardent bargain hunter a nervous breakdown.

Here’s just a taster:

several scarves, some more useful than others, all of them in vivid colours and all of which which seemed like a good idea at the time
a pair of genuine Turkish trousers, blue, baggy (think Disney’s Aladdin), elastic gone, bought at a market stall in Dogubeyzit/Kars/Antakya in 1988
three biodegradable plastic bags, partly biodegraded
numerous winter hats (all very welcome at the moment)
numerous sun hats, two with midge nets attached (which would have been very welcome if I could have found them in time for our summer holiday in 2012)
Two full-length Victorian-style white cotton nightdresses (from my New Romantic era) now yellowed with age, one of them torn
Four pairs of walking trousers, one still fitting and two with buttons still attached
A plastic tiara, with attached note, in an unknown adult’s handwriting, saying: Thank you so much, you saved my life (?)
My knitting (no, I didn’t know I knitted either)
Something at the back which I daren’t investigate further in case it bites.

You know where this is going, don’t you? Just as in life I don’t shovel things into the recycling until it’s absolutely certain that I’ve no possible use for them, so it is with plots. It’s why I never throw away my old notebooks or drafts (and they’re in another cupboard that I haven’t fought way way through to just yet) in case there’s  germ of an idea in there.

I never throw away my characters either. My hero and heroine in No Time Like Now first came to me way back in the early 1990s and wandered around in limbo for years, never meeting until the autumn of 2013. So why would I waste some other partly-planned character who was just unlucky enough to surface in the wrong plot, only to be written out at second draft stage?

And the ideas. And the titles. And the rest… periodically I gather them up and look at them with a critics eye, but I always keep them.

In real life those white nighties might come in useful, too. (I mean, you never know when you’ll need something to tear up for bandages — just think of The Railway Children.) The sun hats and midge hats are obviously going to be indispensable in the very near future. And even the knitting will come in handy of I’m ever the props manager for a stage version of A Tale Of Two Cities.

Being realistic, though, I’ll probably have to give in to common sense and get rid of at least one of those plastic bags…

Jennifer Young


  1. Your wardrobe sounds remarkably similar to mine, Jennifer!
    I have to admit I chickened out before I actually threw out any of my notebooks.

  2. I must say - I think you were wise. You never know when you'll need that wee note you jotted down!

  3. I think we'd all have to confess to similar wardrobe details, Jennifer! I do turn mine out regularly (ie when I can't get anything else into it), but it's nowhere near enough. I feel a story coming on, though? All those objects surely have histories and memories? You've given us the synopsis - now your challenge is to weave them all together into something moving, compelling or funny... and around 2,500 words!

  4. Hmm... now there's a challenge I might just have to accept...

  5. I hate tidying cupboards and have had to do more than my share recently. But this cheered me up no end! Plot ideas and someone with cupboards even more messy (I mean interesting) than mine...

  6. Gill, I yield to no-one in the messiness of my cupboards. But others may outdo me in plot ideas...

  7. Ah yes, don't we all have cupboards stuffed with stuff we've forgotten about, and aren't all writers' heads stuffed with plots they may or may not use.....and, ah, is that Calum, circa 1996 calling me?????

  8. Well, I think Tim and Megan go back to around 1994 so...