Monday Writing Motivation: The story that emerges from the cracks between scenes

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog, Tips for Writers

Monday writing motivation. Here’s a thought: what are characters up to when they’re not active in your story? Remember, they’re not human beings. A human being is busy with all sorts of things between the scenes in which, in a memoir, she might appear. But an imagined character – what does she do?

This question points to a fact that we usually choose to ignore – and that is that our characters are not real, that they exist only as squiggles on a page. Those squiggles enable your readers to construct in their brains images of the characters in the story. They turn them into humans, for the duration at least, of the reading of our story.

Then we close the book, or turn off the Kindle, and consign the characters and their world to the dimensionless universe in which unread stories continue their tenebrous existence.

Let’s consider this in terms of a possible story. Your character goes to a party. There she meets an old flame who talks invitingly about a holiday he’s planning in Morocco.

Monday Writing Motivation

The following day, your protagonist passes a travel agency – or stumbles across an article in the online edition of The Guardian about the souks of Marrakesh, or both.

We cut to her talking to her boss about the possibility of taking unscheduled leave. He turns her down, and in a fit of resentment, she quits her job.

I’m not sure what happens next – and nor am I concerned with it. What I want to look at now are the gaps between these scenes.

Let’s call your character Chloe, shall we? She’s 26, she’s meandered through life to this point, taking first this job, then that, without clear direction. After the party, at which the prospect of an adventure in North Africa was dangled enticingly before her, Chloe went home (we presume). If she took Hunter – her old flame – home for a romp, we would, presumably have recorded it as a significant step on her journey. So we must assume she went home alone.

Did anything happen there? She must have dreamt of Marrakesh? She must have imagined what it was like. Or perhaps she remembered a visit she’d made to a souk as a child in the company of her parents. Or perhaps…

She slept. When she woke, was her mind made up? Had something happened in her sleep; had something in her brain shifted subtly? Was she now ready, in a way that she hadn’t been before, to contemplate an adventure?

And then she passes by the travel agency window and sees, displayed there, like an invitation addressed specifically to her, pictures of a Marrakesh souk.

There’s a further gap between this vision of a possible future and her impulsive resignation. What happened then? Did she talk to her fellow workers about her decision?  Had she visited the ladies and examined her reflection, wondering what sea change had taken place in her? Had she got a message from Hunter on her phone giving her an address in Marrakesh? Had she been scolded by a supervisor for getting something wrong – again?

Now, I’m not sure about you, but I’m finding this emerging story – the story that emerges from the gaps, from the cracks – very intriguing.

And it strikes me that it’s worth asking what your protagonist gets up to when you don’t have your full attention focused on her.

Happy writing,


(What will you do with your Monday writing motivation?)

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