On being a writer...

A celebration of the writing process, of being a writer, of all the weird things that pass through a writing brain...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Lists are good

You would think that lists are bad - i.e. dull, especially when written in a novel. And I've heard Charlotte Bronte criticised for using too many adjectives in a row. Lists of adjectives do smack of the author not quite being able to make the right choice, although I'm guilty of using several when one just won't do.
But lists of things can often be very engaging. A friend of my daughter's is doing a Phd that somehow includes pockets, and their contents. What do you have in your pocket? Just a tissue. Or a train ticket, and if so, to where, and what happened? Or the sleeve of an umbrella (actually I'm listing my own pocket contents here). I have a soft spot for umbrellas and especially for the very girly floral one currently in my possession. Or a coin. Or a cinema ticket, or a receipt. Everything tells a story. But then what I choose to list about a character can lead me all kinds of places. I remember writing the contents of Stella Wheeler's wardrobe in The Crimson Rooms, and the process of listing her clothes forced me to develop a much closer sense of who she was and what she liked. Even place names, listed, can be very useful or stations visited by a particular train. It's to do with detail, I think, the sense that there's a degree of intimacy if there's a list. Even a shopping list. I once was behind a guy in Tescos who had lots of nail polishes in his trolley. Interesting? I love looking in people's trolleys.
So, I'm off to make lunch for my son and myself. He will have a bacon sandwich with ketchup. I shall have a salad with apples, bacon, watercress, tomato and cucumber. And if you want to know how interesting food can be, read Iris Murdoch's The Sea The Sea.

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