I took my narrative numbers quiz for me and came out with a fairly unremarkable score, but didn’t think that it would help me get a job in London. I told my advisor this and he said: ‘You’ve got what it takes. Your style of storytelling is very much like ours.’ I suppose he meant that I seemed like a bit of a ‘writer’s boy’ but I wasn’t – I was just looking for an opportunity to do a bit of experience, especially after getting a brilliant University degree.
So I did take my NDT for the University of Bristol, in South Wales, and it gave me an opportunity to work with a writer called Paul Robinson. He was a much-ballyhooed novelist who’d written several highly acclaimed British novels, including the Pool Boy and the Caves Of Altamira series. I worked alongside him for a few months and learned a lot from him. I learned that the key to a successful novel is its plot, because unless the plot is very strong, the rest of the story will be weak. I also found that the key to a good screenplay is its central character, which must be believable. This resonated with me because my own story has a central character, Paul.
So I took my narrative number for me to a brain surgery centre in Bristol where the head doctor was a lovely woman called Mrs Jones. She explained to me that the way I was writing my novel was that the central character was mentally ill, so that my whole plot depended on his story. This was news to me, because fiction relies on characterisation and if you’re not doing that, you’re not going to be able to create real characters. Mrs Jones told me that I should take my NDT to the bank and ask for advice; she did say that she’d read my paper and gave me hints about how to structure the novel so that my central character fitted in perfectly.
By taking my own story to the bank and asking for help, I was able to create a plot line that was not only interesting but could be used to develop the main character and bring new life into the story. But taking my own narrative was also a good way to test if my story was actually going to work, because my agent and editor would be able to tell if something wasn’t working. If it didn’t feel right, I didn’t have to rewrite it – I could just take my narrative numbers quiz for me and I knew that I hadn’t actually invented my own world.
The next time I took my narrative numbers quiz for me, I checked to see what questions were on it. And sure enough, there was one more question that I hadn’t realised existed on it. It asked if I wanted to take my story to the theatre or a film set. I was excited about this, but then thought that maybe I would like to take my story to a literary festival instead.
I was nervous about this, because I hadn’t presented any of my stories in this manner before, and I wasn’t really sure that I had the right ability to do so. But I did find out that the test that the bank uses doesn’t judge the story as being “compelling” or “interesting”. They just want to know if you can tell a “big enough story”.
So I took my own narrative to the bank and presented it. I was nervous about it, but it was also a lot of fun and ended up getting me a very nice A grade. (It may have been a high A, but given that I presented it to the bank’s audience of mostly older people, they were not likely to be offended by it.) All in all, taking my own story and testing it out is a great way to learn if you can really do your own fiction.