Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TIPS: Plots ... now with Bees!

First, let me remind you all that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to leave the house (preferably by public transport so you can spend the trip learning through reading). This Sunday I went to the Torrens Island Quarantine Station tour with my fiance (yes, I'm missing the ` but I don't know how to add it so it'll sit right). Basically, the entire island is a secure facility because the ETSA power station sits on the single bridge to the island, and the now closed Quarantine Station facility is both heritage-listed and has problems with asbestos.

My visit really opened my eyes to all kinds of descriptive nuances, not to mention it gave me several new experiences in my memory banks that can be plumbed for later scenes. I saw how buildings left for decades without care could still withstand the test of time. I saw evidence of the youth camps that used to go there after it closed but before the big fears of asbestos. I saw how part of the old quarantine station had been bull dozed for a small sub-section of the power station. I saw how the wildlife was trying to take over.

In particular, I noticed that bees had taken up residence in two of the buildings (one of which was the morgue). It made me think that here was the perfect metaphor for re-using plots. It's pretty much been said that there's no new plots anymore. They all contain a structure from an earlier story - normally, the good ones also contain traces of dozens of stories in a rich cake of complexity. In a way, the novels we write are sort of like that quarantine station. They start off with a rather generic story structure (a semi-interesting tale of an abandoned quarantine station) but we add nuances and layers until they become something fresh and unexpected.

Until the bees move in, basically.

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