Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre…

Elaine Roberts compares her driving lessons with her writing structure.

The clear road ahead

The optimism of the clear road ahead

It was over forty years ago when I took my driving lessons. It was a struggle for me to take in the process of working my feet, hands and eyes all at the same time. I often hear people say how they passed on their first driving test. It took me three attempts before I passed, admittedly the second examiner had just come back from having a nervous breakdown, and no, I didn’t have him the first time.

You might be asking why I am talking about driving lessons and tests; well, I’m going to tell you. When I was learning to drive, there was always a lot to remember. I’m not going to go into getting your feet to hit the right pedals in the right order. However, the term that has always stayed with me is “mirror, signal, and manoeuvre.”

The question I ask is, can you relate it to your writing?

Wing mirrors give a different view to the rear view mirror

Wing mirrors giving a different view.


When sitting in the driving seat and you look at the rear view mirror, or the wing mirror, you are looking at what is behind you. Hhmm, could that be the back story of your characters? Do you need to know where they have been, or what they have been through, to be able to move them forward?


Before pulling away, or turning, the driver flicks on the indicator to signal to other drivers where they are going.

Signalling where the reader is being taken

Signalling where the reader is being taken

When we write a story, should we be signalling what could be coming? I believe that, in this context, it could be called signposting. It amounts to the same thing. We have our characters acting out, but the reader doesn’t necessarily understand why until much later in the story, but when the penny drops, the reader gets an “ah” moment.




In driving terms, this could be reversing round a corner, doing a three point turn, hill start, an emergency stop or just basically moving forward.

The grey sky and busy road of the conflicts along the way.

The grey sky and busy road of the conflicts along the way.

In writing terms, the manoeuvre is the twists and turns of the story. It’s the plot, sub plots and the conflicts. It’s the twists and turns that the characters take when they hit a traffic jam, or something that stops them from getting to their end goal, or destination.

Perhaps, for me, the way forward isn’t to remember all the acts, scenes, chapters and saggy middles in writing, but just trying to remember mirror, signal and manoeuvre and then I’ll reach my destination.


4 thoughts on “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre…

    • Thank you Moya. Our stories are about characters threading their way through life, trying to find their way and it occurred to me that’s what we do when we are driving. Even more so when we are learning to drive. Elaine x

  1. Thank you Natalie. I sometimes struggle to remember all the different elements to our writing and I thought that this might make it a little easier. Elaine x

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