Essay 16 The Room With No Doors

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Even if I wanted to, I am incapable of writing a novel about an idea. My problem is plot. Another way of putting this is that I have a problem with the future. I like to get all my characters into a room and gleefully outline their backstories.  I like to have them talk to each other so you see who is the good one and who is the secret Hound. My problem is then what? What are you supposed to do with them then? Last year, the demented writer Rachel Cusk said that she felt fiction was “fake and embarrassing… the idea of making up John and Jane and having them do things together seems utterly ridiculous.” I don’t think it seems ridiculous – I think it seems great. I just can’t do it. I cannot contrive a single fictional situation. Iris Murdoch said that “A novel must be a house fit for free characters to live in.” My characters can’t even turn on the taps. There are no beds, and just a little hamster where the kitchen should be. My characters are at a party that they are not allowed to leave.