Walking – How to unblock a plot

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Whenever I do my mindmapping/plotting and planning sessions at schools, I always reach a point where I have to admit that the plot is really a bit rubbish. But, I explain, If I’d been doing it on my own at home, I’d be fairly pleased with what I’d done so far. (Only examiners could expect you to plot and write a story in the length of a school lesson – when did they last have a go themselves?) Plots need a bit of time to ferment and cook.

Having worked out a basic plot at home, I’d feel pretty satisfied with myself and go and have a long coffee break. But sometimes the plot just won’t come together – that’s when I go for a walk.

There is something about the rhythm of walking – the being on your own, but in the world, that seems to act as a brain emetic.

I’ve been humming and ha-ing about the plot for my fifth Olympia book for weeks now, finding all sorts of other little, very important jobs to do, other than get on with the story.

This morning I forced myself to sit down and really get on with it. I went back to the beginning and started plotting all over again. The rough plan started coming out much better than before, but where was the McGuffin? (The McGuffin was Alfred Hitchcock’s term for the bit the plot revolves around – the ah ha! bit that moves things on.)

I’d not planned to go on a walk this afternoon, as it was supposed to pour with rain, but I forced myself to brave the elements and set off, confident in the knowledge that I would get this thing sorted out. And sure enough, within quarter of an hour – bang! – it just popped into my head. I had taken a little notebook with me, so I wrote down the idea, in case I forgot it. Then I punched the air and, smiling and whistling happily, I continued my walk through the Forest, careless of the rain that had now started to fall.

That that moment was as good as a full day’s work, so anything else I get done today is a bonus.

Are you feeling mentally constipated – go out in the fresh air and un-bung yourself – it keeps you healthy too!

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