When we’re talking about fiction should plot be the main driver for the story or should we, as writers, allow our intuition to guide us and let the story and the book write itself?
Dr Sue Woolfe remains my inspiration for free writing, or to use her term; ‘loose construing’. During this process we access our subconscious mind; where memories, imagination, repressed thoughts and taboos become unleashed, saying what you dare not say aloud. The result in free writing is often beautiful, evocative language, and just as the term ‘free’ indicates, it is liberating.
Woolfe taught me that as writers we don’t always know what the story or plot are. This is what makes a story authentic, organic and less contrived than a plot-driven story or book. ‘Often a novel can become an unintentional diary of a writer’s midnight thoughts.’ Sue Woolfe, The Mystery of the Cleaning Lady, A Writer Looks at Creativity and Neuroscience, UWA Press, 207, p6.
If you are driven by the plot or idea for a story it can restrict your creativity. Plot is driven by the rational, thinking, planning mind. Even Stephen King uses the image of a fossil that the writer has to uncover from the surrounding rock, letting it reveal itself. He tells aspiring writers that their job isn’t to find ideas, but to recognise them when they show up.
‘Plot is, I think the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.’ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Hachette UK, 2001. Colum McCann, author of Transatlantic says ‘Plot seems vaguely juvenile to me. It’s all about the language..good plot will emerge from good language. It’s the words that matter.’ The Writer 2013-09
That said, during the process of learning about the craft of writing, which to me is much more rational and intellectual – getting to grips with point of view, character, dialogue and structure – I am discovering, as with most things in life, that what is required is a fine balance. A balance between intuitive free writing and applying the techniques to craft the story.