I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have a ‘plotty head’. What is it? It’s a part of my mind – subconscious, muse, imagination, a combination or whatever – that makes me a storyteller.
It works in two ways:
- Someone tells me an anecdote and I have a reaction. It’s physical. It’s as if something just clunked into place above my eyes. I fall into a daze as I work out how I can use what I’ve just been told.
- My plotty head untangles knots in my storyline or tells me when there’s a hole in my plot. It’s one of the most precious things I own.
I didn’t used to know the best way to use my plotty head. I thought it would remember whatever it had been telling me and supply the same idea or solution at a more convenient time. I was wrong. My plotty head doesn’t care for being ignored. If I don’t capture its latest workings, it jettisons the thoughts and ideas like someone with a thirty-second memory. I’ve learned to take out my phone and make a note at the earliest opportunity. I have an iPhone and a Macbook so the Notes app syncs between the two, meaning that a note I made on my phone lying in bed last night is on my computer this morning and can be copied and pasted into my WIP. (Talking of thirty-second memories, that’s exactly what the dictation facility on Notes has. If I don’t exceed thirty-second segments I don’t even have to type my thoughts into Notes, I can dictate them.) My plotty head utilises my Notes app a lot. I currently have notes headed: Winter 2021 book; Marketing meeting; Newsletter; Summer 2021 book (my WIP); Blog ideas; Brighton and Chichester research; and Short story ideas.
My plotty head is activated by things like cooking, walking or trying to go to sleep but perhaps the most common is reading. It’s nothing to do with what I’m reading – it’s the act of entering Fiction Land that does it. I’m reading about a Regency heroine falling off a horse and my plotty head interrupts with a better way to handle the passport conundrum in my summer 2021 book. It works with audiobooks, too. I’m listening to a romantic suspense novel about arson and I realise I haven’t heard any of the last chapter – my plotty head’s analysing the relationship between my heroine and her mother and how that provides my heroine’s motivation for finding her great aunt. Honestly, I’ve gone back to the beginning of the chapter to listen again and there is literally nothing about great aunts and mothers or even familial relationships. It seems as if my plotty head arrives in Fiction Land, wakes up, stretches and says, ‘I have work to do!’
Unfortunately, my plotty head has got me into trouble. I hold it responsible for the elaborate lies I used to construct as a kid. When we lived in Malta, one day the school bus delivered me home late from after-school recorder class. Instead of telling my parents that several routes had been combined, which is what had happened, I had used the journey to dream up a complex set of reasons for my late appearance, including a horrible bus driver who stopped to play cards with friends while the poor little school kids waited on the bus. I was proud of my story and told it to my dad. The mistake I made was not telling him that my plotty head and I had been in Fiction Land. Dad went to the authorities and complained. Now, this was an army bus from an army school so he complained to the army. Because he was in the army. And the poor bus driver was a civilian. My story was bitterly refuted by the bus driver and his version – the truth – upheld by other parents. Dad stormed home ranting about being made to look ‘a bloody fool’ and I got in trouble for telling lies.
Lies? Surely it was a story? It had hung together so well he’d believed it, right? Ergo, it was a story.
Sadly, Dad didn’t live long enough to see me make money out of my plotty head. I’m sure he would have forgiven me for making him look a bloody fool about the bus driver and the pack of cards. In fact, knowing Dad, he would have claimed I got my plotty head from him. Why not? It has to come from somewhere.
I just hope it never goes away.
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