Eeek! Plot! Kill it!

I don’t like trying to plot. For one thing, what an awful word. PLOT. Sounds like someone just dropped a big wad of something sticky on a tile floor.

Okay, silliness aside, I think plot is a negative buzzword in my head. I have often thought that I don’t know how to plot. I read these blurbs on the back of good books and they say, ‘Tightly plotted!’ But the books have very little in common, in terms of structure. Some of them are just sort of episodic wanderings, some are comedies where everything comes deliciously together at the end, some mysteries where obviously the author had everything figured out before she started, some are just one thing after another. Maybe nobody else really knows what plotting is either?

And truly, it wasn’t until I got sick of trying to learn and just wrote stories instead that I started to get good. Maybe, for me, plot is an emergent property of characters plus situation. But I think there’s at least one more element.

Characters in a situation is a start. What moves things along is conflict. For a good story to happen, characters have to need and move and act and do, and they won’t be bumped out of their comfortable lives until they have conflict. Between one another, between them and their environment, them and their dreams or nightmares. They need something to save, something to run from, something that hurts them so they can try to make it stop, something to do.

So: characters plus situation plus conflict equals a story. And the first time someone puts ‘tightly plotted’ on the back of one of my books, I’m gonna laugh so hard.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: A Recommendation for Fellow Writers. « Gary William Murning Online

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