A Novel Observed #23 – Bringing The Strands Together

The Writing Stage

The Writing Stage

When the television series, LOST, came to an end in 2010, there was a fair amount of disappointment, even outrage, at the number of unanswered questions that remained. I recall, as we neared the final few episodes, the moment when I realised that the various strands that had been woven throughout the show were probably not going to be all neatly tied up, but just dropped and left dangling.

I’m sure there were plenty of people who were okay with that, but I wasn’t one of them. I, and I think this is true for most of us, like to see all the strands brought together and neatly tied up, so I can sit back with a sigh and pretend that this is whole things will work out in my life.

So, when it comes to writing the closing chapters of No Time To Stand And Stare, it’s time to think about the various strands I’ve been toying with and try to ensure they are all neatly tied off.

Just like real life isn’t.

Firstly, I need to try to remember them all (though, I don’t think there were that many). This is best done by looking at each character that has been introduced and considering what’s been revealed about them and how their part in this novel might end. I’ll start with the minor characters:

  • Sid & Harry, the two old guys at the bar. They are regulars at the Green Man, despite the fact they think it’s rubbish with Donald in charge. It would be nice if they could see the changes happening to the place and be involved in the decision-making process, helping to recreate the pub as it once was.
  • The Vicar, who I’ve just realised doesn’t have a name! Perhaps it would be good to give him a name for starters. I feel I’ve failed him somewhat – he’s a completely 2D character without goals, aspirations, desires or conflicts. He needs rethinking before I can come up with a neatly tied strand for him.
  • Jeph and Archie. Here’s another tricky couple as they also are somewhat 2D, invented solely to fill out the brewing session and to reinforce the idea of the coming fayre. Again, they need rethinking and given a strand of their own.
  • Mrs Farley, the prim and proper lady organising the fayre. So far her storyline has been focussed on the fayre preparations and I think I’d like something embarrassing to happen to her. Maybe she has a little to much to drink at the dance and falls into the band. While dancing with the vicar??
  • The London Friends – can’t be bothered to name them all. Their strand has been somewhat antagonistic. They are the ones who don’t think he’s a real man. They are the ones who didn’t believe he would last the week. They are the ones who don’t believe he can change. In light of this, it would be good to prove them wrong on all counts, thus thwarting their evil ways!

Then we have the major characters:

  • Donald – his strand has been about changing the Green Man into a decent pub that people will visit. This venture is obviously going to take longer than a week, but it would be good to see it firmly on underway, with a new chef etc. Perhaps a thumbs-up from Mac and Mrs Standfield would help to seal Donald’s determination to see the change through, together with the support of Sid & Harry.
  • Mrs Standfield – her relationship with Mac is her main strand, so getting them together at the Green Man for dinner is important. It would also be good to see them together to say goodbye to Sebastian when he leaves.
  • Mac – as a shy man when it comes to women, it would be good to see Mac’s confidence boosted when Sebastian helps him prepare for the dinner with Mrs Standfield. For the rest, see Mrs Standfield above.
  • Virginia – she wants to be more ‘ladylike’ and feel beautiful, and Sebastian’s help with the hair products should help. I think it would be good to have her arrive at the dance in a dress with her hair looking amazing.
  • Neil – he seems to be the person who is most satisfied with his life, so it’s hard to think of a fulfilling tie-up for his strand. However, his desire to see Sebastian ‘converted’ to becoming a lover of the countryside is a subtle strand that would be good to make a little clearer. Perhaps we can tie this one up in the last of Sebastian’s work on the smallholding and when they part company at the train station.
  • Emma – I had meant to include a longing for Emma to know more about the city, with a desire to visit it, but with the conflict of feeling she needs to stay in the village to look after her mother. This is something that will be addressed in the second draft (the one where we tighten up the story and try to make things flow better). However, I’d like her to mention this to Sebastian on the evening of the fayre so she can give him a letter to read on the train suggesting she hopes to come to London to visit now her mum and Mac are ‘together’. Also, we need some kind of culmination of the ‘love interest’, which will be a single kiss after dancing at the fayre.
  • Sebastian – There are two main strands here: the change of heart towards the countryside and the love interest with Emma. The second of these is going to be slightly left open as, after the kiss, he doesn’t see Emma again. Instead he reads a letter on the train that she has sneaked into his lunch (the letter was sneaked in, not the train) which opens up the idea of her visiting him in London. His change of heart towards the countryside will be reflected in the return to London as we see him no longer enthralled by things he loves at the start of the book. The final tying up will be him looking out at his view…

Hopefully that’s everything covered. Now to try and do all that bringing together!