The Dove on the Pergola – 18th June 2018

The Dove on the Pergola – progress 180618

This is my weekly blog post about the progress of my novel “The Dove on the Pergola”. The novel is about a young Indian woman, Makshirani, who has lived until she was sixteen years old in a village in Bengal, and who then moves to the big city of Kolkata.

The dove on the pergola 180618

Character and plot

I’ve been working on the storyboard this week.

One of the things I’ve learned from writing my previous novels is that it’s difficult to introduce substantive material at a late stage. The new material can create conflicts with previous material and putting them right causes further problems and – oh! (Throws up hands in despair!)

So, I want to complete the storyboard comprehensively before I start to write the novel itself. I have 900 words on the storyboard, and that takes me about a third of the way through the novel.

Mind you, I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong impression. Side by side with the storyboard I’m recording my insights into the characters and the way they interact to form the plot. There’s many more words here – about 3,000 so far. It’s leading to some interesting progress. Most notably, I’m finding that characters are starting to show that they have multiple roles to play.

For example, when Makshirani flees from her village to Kolkata, she turns to her Aunt Abhilasha for support and accommodation. It’s obvious that Abhilasha will influence the plot after Makshirani joins her – but how about earlier than that? Why does she live in Kolkata? Suppose she plays a crucial role at Makshirani’s birth? Her experiences then would help shape who she is, and therefore affect Makshirani later. And that’s one of the reasons why late additions of substantive content are so difficult; action and character are totally interlinked.

Despite my good intentions, though, I must confess that I have started writing the opening scene! I’m trying to achieve the intensity and focus of flash fiction in an extended piece of several thousand words. At the end of the opening chapter, I want the reader to feel emotionally exhausted – but eager to carry on reading!

If you have any thoughts on the way I’m tackling this, I would be delighted to hear from you. I will answer every comment.


10 thoughts on “The Dove on the Pergola – 18th June 2018

  1. It’s great that you’re plotting it out and sharing that journey with us. Honestly, this is the reason I don’t write things longer than short stories very often. I can never seem to get a plot and character interactions to work out long term. I’m pretty bad about just writing then adding things in and realizing it messes everything up later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Kelley
      Thank you for reading and sharing your own experience. When I wrote my first novel, I took a simple, linear narrative which was tightly focussed on the main character. I knew where I was starting; I knew where I was finishing; and I had an outline of each of the intermediate steps. Imagine my surprise when the other characters leapt off the page and demanded more story! Of course, I gave in to their demands, but because I had the strong central (simple, linear) narrative firmly fixed, I was able to slot them in appropriately.
      That’s really why I’m being strict with myself about the storyboard for this novel. I know that if I can make the central story strong enough it will help me control the other interactions.
      With best wishes

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Mythrider
      Thank you for the recommendation. I haven’t read John Truby’s book. It sounds very useful if you can use it to guide plotting as you go along. The two books that have most influenced me are Stephen King’s “On Writing” and Elizabeth George’s “Write Away”. The Stephen King is marvellously inspiring, while “Write Away” is full of good detailed thoughts.
      With best wishes


  2. Thank you for sharing your process Penny. Your story is of particular interest to me as I originally belong to Bengal 🙂 Funnily enough I cannot seem to plan a story and write. I have written two long serialized stories (only published on my blog) both played by the ear. And although challenging it was a lot more fun as I would often sit down to write as I wanted to know what would happen next – almost like reading a book 😀 Currently I am trying to write a murder mystery (I love them and want to see if I can write one!) but that requires meticulous planning, which I like. But the writing of the chapters itself is rather slow and tedious. Or perhaps I havent quite found my groove yet. Or not really convinced about my story. All the best for your story – I learned a new word pergola. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dahlia.
      It’s lovely to hear from you! And thank you so much for the encouragement. I’m fascinated that you originate from Bengal. It sounds as though it is a very varied place geographically, and, in many places, very beautiful.
      I must have a look at your serialised stories; expect to see me popping up on your blog some time in the near future!
      Of your murder mystery you say that “the writing of the chapters itself is rather slow and tedious”. I shouldn’t worry about that. Writing a novel is like running a marathon; there are times when you’d love to sprint just to change the rhythm, but you know it would be unwise. You’ve just got to keep steady and enjoy the slowly unfolding panorama!
      I’m happy to have introduced you to the word ‘pergola’. I have a pergola in my small garden, with a grape vine growing on it. It’s a lovely place to sit in summer!
      With very best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Penny for reminder that writing a novel is like a marathon. It really helped me calm down 😀 I would love to have you read my serialized stories, although I would like to suggest you go for Moonshine rather than Silver Streaks as the latter has a liberal sprinkling of Hindi.
        Have a good day Penny

        Liked by 1 person

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