Round Robin – Plotting

Rhobin’s topic for September is about plotting. She wonders what, in designing our plots, we rely on most: personal experience, imagination or research.

This is a really difficult question to answer because its list of choices belies the delicate meshing of these three aspects of writing. They intertwine in a seamless fashion in my practice.

INMAGINATION – probably takes the lead, if I have to choose, because if you weren’t imagining, how would you progress to story? Say you’re on the bus and have to listen to a drunk setting the world to rights, by their way of thinking. It’ll be garbled non-sense, but it will have grains of their experience buried in the damaged psyche. So my writer’s brain is already at work. Did he say his mother had no time for him because she was an actress? Did she say her father had no time for her because she was female? On and on, over and over till the essence of story is distilled. That probably leads on to:

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE – so, discounting the inciting incident, be it drunk on bus, toddler having tantrum, stray deer in garden, I will consider what my wider experience of life can bring to the fledgling idea. In particular, I am influenced by place. Ocasionally, I experience a wash of feeling that alerts me to a theme long buried in my subconscious. I can only compare it to the hormonal reactions we all have when confronted by some circumstances. There’s a story here and it wants/needs to break free. This scene in the nether regions of a country house underpinned quite a few stories:

The Laundry

I can almost smell bleach just looking at it now. And that brings me rather neatly to:

RESEARCH – because memory is notoriously faulty, research is needed. I write historical romance, but I do not make up the history. I write contemporary magazine fiction, but I don’t know everything about anything, really. One of the things I find about research, particularly when working in the historical genre, is that often I don’t know what I need to know when I start writing. I will have read a lot around and in the area, studied maps of the time, looked at fashion plates, but there comes that moment of uncertainty. When were scissors invented? What year was the window tax?

Another thought provoking topic from Rhobin. Thank you Ma’am. Other writers give their take and you can read them from the links below.

Capital Writers will have a bit of news shortly. Come back soon to find it out.


Margaret Fieland
Victoria Chatham
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Diane Bator
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
Rhobin L Courtright


10 thoughts on “Round Robin – Plotting

  1. That laundry so reminds me of my grandmother’s scullery! And your drunk on the bus reminded me of a gentleman I sat beside on a return flight from New Zealand. He wasn’t drunk but his ramblings so concerned me I went and had a quiet word with one of the cabin crew. It turned out his wife had died the previous week and he really had no idea of what he was doing or where he was going. The passenger on my other side was concerned about the Angus beef steaks she had in her luggage. She’d heard some awful tales about beef in Britain so was bringing her own so she wouldn’t be hungry! Thinking about that now, could I perhaps slip that into a story somewhere?


    • Oh Victoria, you made me laugh over the beef steaks. Where did she think Aberdeen Angus originated? Brings us back to that old chestnut of a question – Where do you get your ideas from? Thanks for dropping by, Anne


  2. I’ve read (more than once) that smell and music are the most powerful at bringing memories to mind. Hear a snippet of music and suddenly you are twenty years into the past and reliving an experience. Same goes for smell. Ozone, for instance puts me in my grandmother’s back yard with my nose buried in her drying bedsheets. (Because I loved the way they smelled drying in the breeze and sun.)


    • Hi Skye, When we were small we travelled on SMT (SCottish Motor Transport) buses. I am travel sick. I still get a weird feeling if I encounter one of those buses in a museum. Actually just looking at pictures of them is enough. thanks for dropping by, Anne


  3. Anne, you have invented a new writing tool. Half a cup of imagination, half a cup of personal experience, two cups of research. Put in a blender and turn it on. Bingo, we have a story!
    Hmm. I think it’s more fun in the old fashioned way. 🙂


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