The writing retreat top 10 plot generating tips are a few suggestons for exploring and playing with plot construction .

‘Six characters In Search Of An Author’ is a play written by Pirandello in 1921 and outlines the relationship between authors, their characters and those in the theatre. The play begins with a company rehearsing another piece and as they are about to settle down to it, six odd visitors arrive much to the director’s annoyance. One of the visitors, the father, explains they are characters who have been left incomplete and are looking for an author to complete their story.

I love this concept and like the randomness and also the juxtaposition of the suspension of disbelief neatly existing alongside our expectation of believing in a work of fiction. Richard Brautigan also achieves this in ‘Sombrero Fallout’ which parodies a literary genre novel. It was published in 1976 and dealt with two interlinked and interrelated narratives. The first detailed what effect a falling sombrero had on humanity as a whole and in the other plotline the narrator considers how he is feeling about the fact his ex-lover has vacated the flat. For me what is really interesting is how while the narrator mopes about his lost love who left as ‘the upkeep was too complicated’ the pieces of prose scrapped by the author and thrown into the wastepaper bin begin to write their own story.

 The whole novel is totally experimental and it has to be said, can be rather overpowering but the absurdity is worth exploring. Brautigan seems to be rarely mentioned these days although he used to be tremendously popular and is known as one of the last Beat Generation writers. He is worth checking out if you haven’t come across him.

My blog has been hi-jacked by Pirandello and Brautigan this morning and I had planned to discuss ways of finding a plot. I suppose what I am trying to do is encourage writers to play, especially if you are easing yourself in. So here are my top 10 tips for generating a plot, not necessarily for a novel but maybe for a warm up exercise. I guess my aim is to eliminate the fear of the blank page. Once you start writing you own the space and no matter how many times you might scribble out, delete or re-write it has your marks on it and for me, that’s always good news, as it’s much easier to revise than begin from scratch. So here goes: the writing retreat top 10 plot generating tips.

  1. Cut some text from a variety of sources, even a horoscope, put them in a receptacle, pick one out and write for 10 minutes on your choice – it’s amazing what develops.
  2. Choose some pictures, old photographs, magazine cuttings, whatever and choose six characters and decide how they meet and go from there.
  3. Think of a list of actions a character might do: deleting all the photographs, message, numbers from a phone for example, knocking over an expensive ornament in a shop, missing the last train, choosing a specific theatre seat, eating a meal in a restaurant alone. Then add a character and see what happens. Use the same action but get three or four different characters to complete the task. What happens?
  4. Collect a few objects, choose one at a time and try to include them in a story. Make a decision; is the paint brush almost bald, who used to own it? The candle is almost a stub, when was it burned, why? The lid of the paint box has been used for mixing colours but the only shades are black and grey? Who was painting and why the limited palette.
  5. Put three characters in a football match, at a restaurant, in a waiting room in a sexual health clinic, at an audition, on a military plane bound for Afghanistan. What happens?
  6. Take the opening line from novels you love and use them as a starting point – you don’t even need to write them down, just read and then start writing.
  7. Collect as many names of different environments as you can possibly manage, whether that is a poppy field, a vineyard, behind a dry stone wall, in a semi derelict house, on a track, in a cooperative where olive oil is pressed, in a market, inside a kitchen where the cook is making cheese, you can see I have been inspired by what is around the writing retreat but your list will be completely different and may be in space, under the sea or in a city.
  8. Create a character, design a questionnaire if it appeals and allow your character to complete it. Ask them questions? You may well find some of the answers will surprise and may well suggest a story.
  9. Headlines and short fillers can be highly fertile ground, many poets I know often use strange goings-on as the basis for poetry.
  10. I began a novel (sadly only four chapters written so far) which started as a consequence of sitting drinking coffee while sitting outside one December day. It was dull and cool and I was feeling wholly uninspired. I noticed a man carrying two enormous flower arrangements and I wondered where he was going to deliver them and what reaction they would have. Almost immediately I was off and the beginning of Rosa Mundi almost formed itself. To read the first section, please go to So watching carefully can throw up all sorts of interesting scenarios that may prove to be useful.

I hope you find something that might appeal in this list, I have just made myself feel very guilty that I have left Rosa in her shop unattended for the past four months, I guess I should try and drop by later today and see how she is doing. Perhaps what I really need is a week at a writing retreat, hmnn, there is just a trace of irony underpinning that comment! This is where Oz Morris’s book comes in handy.

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