If you wind up …

If you wind up boring yourself, you can pretty much bank on the fact that you’re going to bore your reader. I believe in keeping several plots going at once. The plot of a novel should be like walking down a busy city street: first there are all the other people around you, the dog walkers and the skateboarders, the couples fighting, the construction guys swearing and shouting, the pretty girl on teetering heels that causes those construction guys to turn around for a split second of silence. There are drivers hitting the brakes, diving birds slicing between buildings, and the sudden ominous clouds banking to the west. All manner of action and movement is rushing towards you and away. But that isn’t enough. You should also have the storefronts at street level, and the twenty stories of apartments full of people and their babies and their dreams. Below the street there should be infrastructure: water, sewer, electric. Maybe there’s a subway down there as well, and it’s full of people. For me, it took all of that to stay emotionally present for seven months of endless days. Many writers feel that plot is passé—they’re so over plot, who needs plot?—to which I say: Learn how to construct one first, and then feel free to reject it.

Ann Patchett, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

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