Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The subconscious plotmaker

with one comment

The Hard-Boiled Virgin by Jack Woodford

[The rules of plot are] no more to be carried in your conscious mind than scales are supposed to be carried in the conscious mind of a musician. Grammar is of practically no use to an author; all the great authors in all ages ignore and snub it completely in all their books; but such grammar as an adult person employs is always employed subconsciously, without thinking about it. And so it is with plot. At first you pay strict attention, objectively and consciously, to matters to plot; and gradually, as you become an established writer, when some youngster asks you how to plot, you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. You try to answer him and suddenly discover that you don’t seem to know from nothing about plot. But when you sit down and start to write a story, you find when you are done that it is somehow plotted.

This phenomenon may be more precisely brought to your mind, perhaps, through the often observed antics of people who are asked to spell some such word as “separate.” Nine out of ten college graduates spell it: “seperate.” But those who…can spell will, often, when you ask them how to spell something, grab a pencil and write it. If you ask them why they do this they will tell you that they must see it…Spelling is bound up in the average person’s mind with a manual act; the manual act of writing; this in turn has a separate compartment in the subconscious mind which acts automatically, subconsciously, and almost hypnotically; so, although they cannot tell you how to spell a word, if they put the manual conditioning to spelling into operation they can write it correctly.

Jack Woodford, Plotting

Written by nevalalee

August 1, 2015 at 7:30 am

One Response

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  1. love it, so true and isn’t it great when something you have once practiced becomes a subconscious process, a craft, when it gets to that great point where you aren’t systematically thinking about what you are doing its just happening, I love it

    pimlottnarelle

    August 2, 2015 at 8:43 pm


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