Plot on a Peg

In April Susan F. talked about how each book needs to find its own way.  I found this comforting.  Finding our stories.  Does it ever get any easier?  Are there really writers who find the one true way and stick to it? The desire line approach, the colored pencil diagramming, the stick-it-all-in-a-blender strategy.   For me every book seems to demand its own working method.  When I’m done with a solid first draft I think, “Okay, now I’ve got it.  I know how to write a novel.”  However when all the hurlyburly’s done and I’ve started a new project I can’t even remember what worked before.

So.  Last month I was in the Museum of London.  They have an exhibit about the Rose Theatre.  The Rose was built in 1587 and was the first place that Shakespeare’s plays were staged.    One of the artifacts in the museum is a document that hung on a peg backstage.  It was a list of entrances, exits and props.  What was this called?  The plot!

This discovery has led me to inventing a new idea about plot.  What about an outline that simply listed the characters and the objects in each scene?  What would be revealed from such a bare bones listing?  What would happen to a plot were one to introduce an alpine chicken orchid or a shingle froe to a stage?  I’m going to call this writing approach “Start With The Stuff.” You heard it here first.

Sarah Ellis





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5 responses to “Plot on a Peg

  1. Kathy Quimby

    What a great idea! I may try it with my undergrads in the fall.

  2. Another aspect of this might be the props table. There is something so exciting about the props table, backstage, with all those bits and bobs of things all set in meticulous order. It would be fun to present a table of “stuff” to be made into a story.

  3. Lindsey Lane

    Love this! It reminds me of this exercise I do with kids in elementary school. Three words. Five minutes. Go. Now I’ll try stuff.

  4. louisehawes

    Okay. Now I want a shingle froe.

  5. Pingback: they said it | Ellar Out Loud

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