The Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde, discission questions

• Do you think the UltraWord plot is a parable about television’s effect on the imagination? What similarities or differences do the two have?

Yes I do think it is a parable, the dangers of reality TV and the dumbing down of acceptability when it comes to programming, cheap en masse, over quality seems to be the way we are going. Yet the viewers pander to the programmers choices, is this because of lack of choice or genuine want of the programmes on offer? I recall they did a smell-o-vision thing for comic relief or children in need once, way back when. The similarities of UltraWord, the thrice read rule is somewhat similar to downloading or file sharing I suppose, they try to discourage it because if the individuals involved buy a copy of the book or the TV licenses themselves then the companies will be making more money, which is after all what they are after. The Pride and Prejudice programming in the ‘real’ world of Thursday Next is a comparison to the reality shows that are dominating the airwaves at the moment.

• Who is the Great Panjandrum? What is her role in the book world?

Who specifically I don’t know, until Thursday called for her aid, I had figured that she was some form of mythical being within the fiction world, but the fact that she showed up kind of negates my idea. Fforde says that she is a representation of whatever your mind conjures her up to be, making her something that is personal to the person seeing her, for example the stone mason who carves the monument to her sees her as a fellow stone mason. Her role is to upkeep the overall book world; help keep things in line I suppose.

• Miss Havisham gives Thursday a piece of the “Last Original Idea . . . a small shard from when the whole was cleaved in 1884.” Do you think the last original idea has been thought and dispersed already? Why or why not?

Original ideas are only as available as the human mind is capable of making, so no, I don’t think the last original idea has necessarily been used, I think it very much depends on the constraints, or lack thereof upon the potential author or an original idea. Fiction in general, original or not is only as strong as the writer is capable of, and the reader can imagine. So as we progress with our ideas and developments as a race, or hear from new writers and writers from cultures where there is not a lot of written work already in existence then perhaps we will see things we have yet to come across.

The Jurisfiction characters argue about the “basic eight-plot architecture we inherited from OralTrad.” Do you think it’s true that “No one will ever need more than eight plots?” If Coming of Age, Bitter Rivalry/Revenge, and Journey of Discovery are part of the eight-plot architecture, what do you think the remaining five plots are? Which would The Well of Lost Plots come under?

Nancy Kress says that the following are the basic plots;

Sacrifice, Rise and Fall, Transformation, Revenge Chase, Quest, Romance and Competition.

Whereas Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch suggested the following as the basic plots;

Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself, Man vs. God, Man vs. Society, Man caught in the Middle and Man & Woman.

Now I would be more inclined to agree with Kress on this matter, simply because Quiller-Couch is confining plots to the race of humans and the plight of their self-centredness by basing everything around ‘Man’ and I disagree with that literally, though if you take his plots in a not wholly literal sense then I suppose they do work, but the scope is larger with Kress’ suggestions. I don’t know about never needing more plots than this, will we reach a point when all the ground has been covered? I suppose that is an answer for the previous question, have we then used up all the original ideas? As for where the Well of Lost plots belongs…I suppose within the plot of; Competition in a way, look at Jack Spratt, he was valiantly trying to save his book and get published, as was Captain Nemo, with his adverts in the paper.

• Thursday sees her worst nightmare when she gazes in the mirror that Aornis holds up to her in her dreams, but it is not the memory of her brother Anton’s death. What is it that Thursday sees in the mirror? What images might you see in the mirror? What is the significance of the “lighthouse” at the edge of her mind?

I wondered if it might have been a sort of ‘monster under the bed’ type figure, something non-specific yet works for everybody, as they will see it as what they fear the most about that sort of creature or possibly the Questing Beast or Big Martin. I actually liked that it wasn’t made especially clear, because it heightens the fear for the reader by having it non-explicit and essentially left up to the readers own imagination. As for what I would see… I’m not sure what my worst nightmare is, they aren’t something I tend to have a great deal of, and when I do, they remain shrouded to my awareness, in that when I wake I can rarely recall what it was that was scaring me. I believe one of the things I fear most revolves around teeth or losing them or some such, it can keep me awake for certain but I’m not sure if they are the cause of any nightmares I might have.

The lighthouse might be a personal safety net, somewhere you know you can retreat to when necessary, a light in the darkness a representation of hope and safety. It was an image I quite liked along with the connotations I personally inferred upon its use, though that is not to say that that is what Fforde meant by it.

• When Snell tells Thursday that Landen can be written into fictional existence so they can live together in the book world, Thursday replies that she wants the real Landen or none at all. Are memory and imagination powerful enough to sustain a real person? If everything in the book world seems real enough, why would Thursday not choose the written Landen? Would you revive people you have lost in your life if you could? Why or why not?

They aren’t if you want a continuously reliable representation of the person in question, memory is a truly tricky thing, it can change and manipulate events to offer a more favourable view, or a more practical view, or any number of permutations on that theme. She wouldn’t choose the fictional Landen, because he will never be the real one, he will never have the same individuality about him and I think that would be the end as far as reasoning goes.

Would I revive them in a fictional sense? Absolutely not, the representation that I created would be idealised and nothing like the original, so whilst it might be comforting for a time, ultimately I think it would be more painful and more damaging to have something that was merely a shadow of that original person. If I could revive them properly with no karmic repercussions, I’d like to say no, because I think things happen as an when as they were meant to, but I think I might actually say yes, because in the end why wouldn’t I want them back… but I think I would be selfish to do so.


About Nerdsbian

I am a nerd for ALL seasons. Ravenclaw...natch. I am a genderqueer Librarian who unsurprisingly likes reading...a lot. But I also love being outside too...sometimes even reading at the same time. Also animals, any and all of them. Never yet met one that didn't get on with me and vice versa. I do a couple of different voluntary jobs (animal charity related), I am a Brownie Leader and have recently completed my MA.
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