Pegging it out

Clothes pins.Image via Wikipedia
When I was a child, my family would often holiday in Scotland and particularly in the town where my father was brought up. I remember very little of the town itself but there are certain things that remain with me.

Firstly, outside a large cafe was a statue of a golden retriever. It was life size and probably made of some kind of resin as it was coloured like the dog it was meant to represent. Over the years, it was 'borrowed' by local drunks on a regular basis, even ending up in the loch now and then.

Secondly, our landlady Mrs Mackay would always serve massive breakfasts (fried sausage slices, tatty scones, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, fried bread) and finish it off with toast and jam. As part of the table setting, there was a ceramic jam pot shaped like a beehive with a bee handle and a matching slender spoon. I can remember taking great pleasure in helping myself to the contents and being told not to play with the lid by my mother.

Thirdly, my father would talk of his life there as a boy and young man - a job working on the steamer, his father's role as park ranger, and his home, a tithe cottage overlooking the vale.

These three things form pegs that secure my memory of that place. Each of them leads to numerous memories and occurrences, providing even more 'pegs'.

The best stories (in both books and films) utilise these pegs, providing us with fixed items that we can hang the storylines on. The Harry Potter novels have his round glasses and his scar, the extremes of Hogwarts and the Dursleys' home, and the knowledge of how Harry's parents died. The Terry Pratchett Discworld novels have the Discworld itself (a disc on four elephants on a turtle flying through space), the wizards and the assassins, and Pratchett's many colourful footnotes. Dickens' Great Expectations has the Kent marshes, the meeting with Magwitch in the graveyard, and the unhappy Miss Havisham.

Creating these pegs lends the reader a security and a familiarity within the storyline that will keep them turning the pages, and not flicking back to find out why that woman just slapped her husband's face or whether this is her third or fourth cousin removed and whom they married the second time around. Help your reader by including a handful of pegs, be they visual (Harry's scar), a sound (the drumming in the Master's head in the Doctor Who series) or an emotion (Miss Havisham's bitter despair). Peg our your storyline in this way and secure it in the memory of the reader.
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Comments

  1. Great post! This is such good advice. And I love your memories of Scotland. I hope you are including those in your writing.

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  2. Thanks Kelly. I always try to include a little of my real life in my writing, however fantastical the stories may be.

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  3. That is good advice, Fi. Using those pegs helps readers connect with one's characters.

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  4. I write the way I paint, very visual, I think. Sometimes, I have to be careful that I don't over-illustrate in order to not insult the reader. But I understand those visuals you speak of. The thing is to draw the reader into the scene itself; to be there.

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  5. Great post Fi, I enjoyed your reference to Scotland and also the premise of the clothes pegs. I love this kind of post that shares a memory to bring forward a literary truth. Well done Fi, you have a great example here!

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  6. Great post! I honestly never thought of things this way when writing but now that I've read this it makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing some wonderful insight. I write non-fiction but I agree it's still important to leave behind "pegs" to help jog a reader's memory. Without it, you likely lost a reader. I'll have to keep this in mind for my next blog post.

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  7. Hi - am visiting from the Lady Bloggers hop -

    What a great visual and technical tool to understand and use for writing!
    Thanks for sharing - hope your novel writing is going well!

    I'm visiting for the first time...And am your Newest Follower!

    Best Wishes,
    Linda

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  8. Great to see Lady Bloggers here.

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  9. What beautiful memories! And what a magical place Scotland must be to visit. I wouldn't mind one of those large breakfasts. :)

    Stopping by from Lady Bloggers Tea Party.

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  10. This is great advice for bloggers as well.

    Stopping in from the LBS tea party. :-)

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  11. Hi, new follower from LBS. Thanks for the writing tips, I need all the help I can get. :)

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