I am not, in the pure sense, a plot-driven writer. Never have been. Probably never will be. But then we do not live our lives as narratives, do we? The story can only be seen retrospectively – and, even then, it doesn’t make for neat chapters and well-crafted endings. Connections are more impressionistic than factual – and that can be hard to turn into prose. Easier with poetry – which, I suspect, is why I often adopt a prose-poetry style in my writing.
I am more like the grit in an oyster that, ironically, can sometimes produce a pearl. I am not interested in being smooth, politically correct, diplomatic or kind in my writing. Nor am I willing to pander to cosy mortals’ illusions of moving in a linear and logical fashion.
We are, in essence, chaotic, our fleeting lives a series of moments of now and of impressions. The landscape, other people’s vibrations, the six senses all dance around, and with, us as we lurch from imperfect moment to glorious and sudden shaft of radiance and back again.
Our initial meetings with others have far more in common with the instinctive reactions of animals than they do with narrative fiction as we so often read (and write)it. Our bodies speak – loudly. Our minds process. The facts are spread out – not neatly, but untidily, mysteriously, with many a gap and inconsistency – because humans lie, exaggerate and preen in order to attract a mate or impress a peer.
The landscape rumbles all around us and rubs off on our skin like a series of powerful perfumes. Colours dazzle us – and, in semi-Proustian nostalgia, plunge us back into memories of youth. None of this can be captured in the net of, ‘And then this happened…’
This, I would have to say, is my biggest quarrel with much of conventional narrative fiction. We are trying to contain the sensory nature of life in a time line of events, facts and self-conscious peeps into another’s frothing cauldron of a head!
I do not wish to pin down immediacy in a metaphorical scrap-book. Way beyond my remit. Impossible in any case. I do not wish to tame the landscape and deliver it up in tins with a sugary liquid. I wish only to touch it, inhale it – and brush those momentary impressions upon porous paper to the best of my ability.
I do not wish to analyse characters to within an inch of their lives. I wish to catch them as they immerse themselves in their surroundings, or touch antennae with others, or cower before the thundering freight in their minds, or dance in slices of sun and wordless joy.
I write to suggest spontaneity, the suddenness of life’s events, the way things hit us in the face or caress us deeply. I write in opposition to the notion that careful planning can genuinely give us control over our lives. I write, somewhat anarchically, against order and 9-5 and all of that!
I am not saying I am right, just that this is the aspect of the human ‘story’ that interests me the most.
If I can achieve this evocation of chaotic and sensual immediacy in my novels, or even a pale echo of it, I shall feel a measure of success.
I leave plot to those who were gifted with that ability.
I was not.
My interests lie in another direction entirely: attempting to turn the in-between states, the liminal moments, into words which keep much of the original intact. I do not want my readers to feel safe as they travel along the staid train tracks of a known plot. I want them to be up against the vicious beaks and talons of nature red in tooth and claw- and to know, albeit briefly, the ecstasy of never knowing what the hell is going to happen next!