Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Finding the plot

Having seen the movies of The da Vinci Code and Prates of the Caribbean ll since my last blog, I have been thinking a lot more about what constitutes a plot. I feel fairly clear about what doesn't, as exemplified by both the above. I also recently reviewed a book whose Press Release proudly proclaimed that it was "Playstation on paper." That also did not feel like a plot. I've said it before: a plot is not just a series of violent incidents.

Think of The Time-traveller's Wife - now there's a plot! Whether you find the premise acceptable or not, Niffenegger really worked that one out with great thoroughness. Or, at the other end of the scale, Jez Alborough's Where's my Teddy? That has a pretty near perfect plot.

I've done all the edits on The Falconer's Knot now and am waiting for someone to get back to me on some mediaeval points. Only the commissioning of another round of Armadillo reviews now stands between me and the return to my adult novel. In the last month I've done two talks, been to two literary parties in London (J is for Jamaica and the Carnegie/Greenaway award) and reviewed five books as well as doing my corrections.

It doesn't FEEL like much, particularly since a lot of it happened in mind-numbing heat. But we did go to a wonderful Don Giovanni in Oxford - beautifully played and sung. And it got me thinking as always about how hateful the Don is and yet he is not a coward. And Donna Elvira is a masochist, going back for more once she has seen what he is like.

At the far end of the spectrum from the sublime words and music of da Ponte and Mozart, I have been sucked into watching this year's Big Brother. After the first two, I swore I would never do this again but Jess knows one of the contestants. Pete, the youmg man with Tourette's syndrome, was a friend at Brighton, so naturally she started watching and I came in and asked which one she knew and before I knew it I was hooked.

It is extraordinary how all the females fancy Pete. And all the males are attracted to a young woman called Ashleyne, who behaves like a Queen Bee. But while it is like watching animals in a zoo, I keep thinking "how do they manage without books?" It's no wonder that they all talk about who fancies whom or whether someone is "two-faced" ( a favourite term). They must be bored out of their skulls! The bitching and copious weeping must be the equivalent of repetitive pacing or grooming to the point of self-harm.

It makes me ashamed of my sex to see how much better the men are at just getting along. Then I saw the World Cup final and changed my mind. Bitching and weeping are better than insulting or nutting, after all.


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