On ‘Cloris – an Alfred and Suzie Story’ – Writing from Autobiograpy – and a Note on Plotting

‘Cloris’ (the previous blog post) might not seem much of a story on its own – though if you agree with what E M Forster says in Aspects of the Novel – that a story is a sequence of events, no more, no less – then ‘Cloris’ is a story.

I find Forster’s idea liberating – it gives me confidence merely to say what happened without having to worry about the whys and wherefores.  (That can come later.)

‘Cloris’, however, seems to be coming from nowhere, going nowhere…

It is not very exciting, maybe.

But – when I decided to put the ‘Alfred and Suzie’ story (that I called just that) into the blog, it got me thinking.  Not all that much seems to happen in that, yet there is something going on, underneath, not stated.

And it was the idea of seeing the caller’s hat through the window in the door that appealed to me in some strange way.

I knew that ‘Alfred and Suzie’ was autobiographical, in a way – it could have been about me and my husband, though fictionalized.

And then I realised that ‘Retail Therapy’ was also an ‘Alfred and Suzie’ story, and went back to it (this was after it had been posted for a while), and added Alfred’s name early in the story.  I tried to add Suzie’s, somewhere, but that didn’t work – it didn’t sound right when I read it out to myself (aloud, of course) – the story seemed to depend on the ‘he said…she said…he said’.  But the addition of the name ‘Alfred’ instead just ‘he’ at the beginning of the story helped to identify it as an ‘Alfred and Suzie’.

That story also was about situations that I knew in real life and that I had used as a springboard into fiction.

And then there was the story ‘Cloris’, which I further appended as an ‘Alfred and Suzie’ story in the title – just to help my readers identify it as such.

But I knew who ‘Cloris’ was – as a character, she was based very much on someone I used to know, though that someone never wore a hat!

I think many writers use autobiographical details, and make up characters based on individual people they used to know – or use a conglomerate of many different people they knew to create one character – or make a character from a hybrid of a couple of people they used to know.

In ‘Alfred and Suzie’ I hadn’t exactly made a decision to get those characters on to the page in that way – it was more like – it happened, and then I realised what I had done.

I do have reams of writing lying around (on paper as well as on the computer), and it is time to start going through that now, and even begin to group things together, where I can.

I just had this idea that the separate ‘Suzie and Alfred’ stories could be treated as plot points (I was never good at plotting) – I could, eventually (especially if I manage to produce more of them), join up some dots between them to produce a longer narrative involving those characters.

It might happen, or I might not get to the end of that exercise, but the interest for me would be in attempting that, over time, to see where it might lead me.



Cloris – an Alfred and Suzie Story

[22/05/2012][14/07/2015 edit][13/12/2016 edit]

“My father used to always take me with him whenever he went on his long walks up the Tor!”

Cloris’s laughter was liquid – attractive.  Suzie had been noticing that about her – she had been trying to work out what it was about Cloris.

“He’d carry me all the way there and all the way back on his shoulder!  I was too little to walk all the way!”

Her voice boomed, and – that tinkling laugh again, as though she found the whole world amusing.

Cloris was stationed in the chair beside the door, the chair that Suzie’s mother always sat in.  She had not taken off her hat.

Suzie’s mother was perched on the edge of a stool that she’d pulled out for herself.

Suzie was tucked away in the corner.

“Maureen stayed at home…”

She paused, and her large face assumed an ingenuous look before she suddenly smiled again, swept on, “He said, often enough, that he’d rather have some company!”  Titter.

Her tea, with the extra milk she’d requested, stood getting cold in her cup.

She hadn’t touched Suzie’s mother’s cakes that were on a plate in the middle of the table.

Suzie could see her mother eyeing them questioningly, but then being caught up again by Cloris’s story.

“He’d stop at the shop on the way back, and buy me something before we went home!”  Tee-hee.

“And Maureen?” Suzie’s mother ventured.

Cloris’s lips pursed.  “She spent most of her time sitting under the table.”

Suzie could see that her mother didn’t dare ask.

“Or if not that, upstairs on the bed, eating sweets…”


Eventually, Cloris left, gliding through the door, her hat still in place.  Cloris was a large woman, and moved with care.

Alfred went with her to take her home.



Jottings – 2

Hmm.  I’m never going to be a popular writer – I don’t write popular fiction.  And I think I’m probably not going to get up to writing popular fiction – I have so much other writing to sort out – never thought it would take me this long – so – what do I use this blog for then?

I know – I could use it as a huge depository for the sorting out of all those reams and reams…

Just thinking.  Considering.

Jottings – 1

I’m in a bit of a quiet spot.

There is a pressure from blogging, but I’m still trying to work that one out because I feel as though there shouldn’t be.  If there is a pressure from outside, then that, I think, needs to be positively resisted, for the blog is your own.

Or the blog is my own.

I must remember that.

Just jotting here, just being reflective in between other writerly-tasks – that I have been doing – that have appeared as tasks, and therefore need to be stepped back from for a while.

Writing is not the same for everyone – general rules do not apply.  It can be helpful to hear what other writers do, and it is possible to find that what one writer does helps you, also.

But I think you (I) forge your (my) own path.


Alfred and Suzie

[15/05/2012; draft 14/07/2015; draft 30/11/2016]

She must be mad, Alfred thought.

She was vacuuming like crazy.

“Watch out!” she shouted, veering towards him.

Alfred jumped back to avoid being hit in the shenanigans.

“Get outta the way!” Suzie snarled, attacking the space where he’d been a moment before.

“Don’t just loiter!” she screeched.

He wondered whether to vacate himself from her vicinity altogether, and whether, if he did, he’d get into more trouble than if he didn’t.

He sauntered towards the door –

“Don’t you dare just sidle off!” Suzie shouted over the noise of the cleaner.  “We’ve got ten minutes!  Collect up the pots and wash them!”

What pots where?

He scanned the place, left and right.

He could see no pots.

Ten minutes, he thought.  Seriously, what could be done in ten minutes?  Better to give up now – not give up, exactly he could imagine what Suzie would say if he said that – cool it – that was what he meant.

But, on second thoughts, he doubted she’d think being told to cool it would be any better than suggesting they give up.

He espied the pots.  They were lurking behind her aspidistra in the corner – a peculiar person was Suzie.  He sometimes wondered why he’d married her.

There were only two pots – coffee-mugs deposited in a quieter moment of the morning.

He hooked the two up together, strode out of the room and into the relative quiet of the kitchen, rinsed the mugs under the running tap, rubbed the brown rings at the tops and the splodges at the bottoms with an index finger, and finished the job on the tea-towel.

He put the mugs in the cupboard in the nearest vacant space, with the glasses, shut the door.

He glanced around.

Everything looked ship-shape.

The sound of the vacuuming stopped, and he strode back into the living room, ready to take further orders – but Suzie, and the vacuum-cleaner, had disappeared.

There was a ring at the door-bell.

He froze.

But then, he dredged up a sense of decision from somewhere, and went to answer the door.

He skirted the hall-way as though afraid to be in it.

He took a deep breath.

He could see her hat through the glass of the front door.

With decision, he lifted the latch, and let the door swing open.

“Mother!  Here at last!” he said.

Miraculously, Suzie was already standing beside him.