Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Greetings on this the first day of the Celtic Spring.

I was delighted to learn that The Plot Thickens which runS for six weeks on Wednesday mornings in Carysfort Campus from 10 o’clock to noon as part of UCD’s Adult Education Programme is going ahead. With the current economic climate, we tutors were informed by the academic powers that be that there would be no leeway: if our numbers didn’t meet UCD’s criteria, the classes would be cancelled.

Plotting is the core of any work of fiction and indeed one of the top UK agents has been known to take on an unwritten book by an unproven author which has a vibrant storyline. But it has to be drop-dead dynamic, original, of the market etc.

Characters are the royalty of fiction. Again, if numbers meet criteria, we have six weeks of Building Story People – Creating Characters, same venue, same times starting on 16 March.

Most works of fiction are either character or plot led. My propensity is for character-led books which become jewels of delight when they have a superb plot and are beautifully written. Such books are rare but I’ve read two such novels recently:

J G Farrell’s Troubles, is winner of the Lost Man Booker; he won the Booker with The Siege of Krishnapur. He came to live in Cork in 1973 and tragically four months later drowned in a fishing accident. In Troubles there is sadness among laughter and a brilliant recreation of a lost period of the political storm of 1919, diffused by the cast of characters within the hypnotic but faded charms of the Majestic Hotel.

But the most powerful of all is Simon Mawer’s haunting and mysterious, The Glass Room, shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker. It proves that a building can be as mysterious as a poem or a song. Set mainly in Czechoslovakia around World War 2, Mawer creates a passionately detailed portrait of individuals struggling to snatch order and happiness from frightening and irrational times.

I’m going to use both Troubles and The Glass Room as examples in both the plotting and creating characters session.

Keep writing…and reading. Thanks to those writers and emerging writers who make contact with me. It’s always good to hear how you’re getting on.


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