At a recent lunch with some very lovely writers and between courses of salad and soft drinks (because writers don’t drink or eat pudding!), we were brainstorming the plot of one of our novels.
The author whose novel it was had a pretty good idea of her main characters, the setting for her novel, its timeline and its narrative arc. But what none of us were prepared for was the absolutely marvellous intervention of another of our number who, with the aid of pieces of cutlery and condiments, proceeded to plot out an epic!
She made the salt cellar the bitter ex-wife, the milk jug became an awkward adolescent, two brothers who didn’t see eye to eye were represented by forks and the patriarch of the family was, of course, a dessert spoon, into which his grandchildren fitted like teaspoons, because (of course) they were teaspoons!
But what she was also able to do was imbue our table top with the WHY and the WHAT as well as the WHO, WHERE and WHEN. Why did one fork dislike the other so much; what did the sparky, gutsy heroine (who was naturally the pepper pot) have to do to win the man of her dreams? So, rather than remaining inert on the table cloth, these pieces of cutlery rose up and danced. They skipped across plates and kicked away our used serviettes. Suddenly there was music and scenes of love and conflict, of laughter and tears.
We took photographs of the scatterings of flatware and each promised to remember the marvel that we had just witnessed. Yes, workshops and tutorials and the wisdom of websites are sometimes necessary when an author is faced with a plotting conundrum, and some people use Post-Its or index cards or flowcharts or pictograms, but what can be better than plotting with cutlery, especially when it’s at lunch with wonderful people?