Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Writing is Spooky

Norman Mailer, sly dog.
"The moment I think of a good plot, I find that the book becomes impossible to write, because I know I won't believe it. Life may consist of people plotting all the time, but the plots rarely develop. We decide: I'll make this move in my life, and that should result in the following - then life confounds us. So I prefer a story that develops out of the writing. I don't like one that moves ahead of my characters, because then my people won't live."
-Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art - Thoughts on Writing.

Norman Mailer's approach to outlining the plot is vastly different to J.K. Rowling's, who created a spreadsheet for each of her Harry Potter novels.

Here's one from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Rowling outlines each chapter in detail, including the title and plot. It's interesting to look at the subplots too, where even if a storyline (such as Cho/Ginny) isn't mentioned in a particular chapter, she has still thought about how they are developing.


Hmmm, two writers whose work I have grown up with and who have also influenced my working and writing style, and they each have well-reasoned ideas about the process of plot development.

Just as well I'm not a fiction writer, eh?


Will P said...

You know Ellen, I've never seen Mailer and Rowling mentioned in the same breath before.

You might like this, if you haven't already read it:

The Paris Review's Art of Fiction No. 32, Norman Mailer

INTERVIEWER: How does the idea of a novel come to you?

MAILER: I don't know that it comes. A more appropriate image for me might be that I start with the idea of constructing a treehouse and end with a skyscraper made of wood.

What a dude. The rest of TPR's interview archive is pretty stellar too. Just by the way.

P.S. Look at him! Sitting there with his well-cut suit and his come-hither eyes. I know this post was about writing but he would fit right in if he popped up under 'style snaps.'

Ellen said...

Haha, well why shouldn't they be mentioned in the same breath... I mean I understand that many literary snobs may think otherwise, but I've grown up with Harry Potter and since I've become more serious about writing, Mailer's Spooky Art is the book I keep referring back to. So I stand by what I said!

Cool, thanks I will check that out.

Norman = fox, apparently. Did you know he dated Marilyn Monroe?? ...Of course you did.