Thursday, June 7, 2012

There is no plot

Rooster plotting his escape on a rainy day at Circle Pond Farm...
Tip - There is no plot.
"In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.  You may wonder where plot is in all this. The answer- my answer, anyway- is nowhere."
Top - On Writing, Stephen King

How it works in my life - In these beginning days of a novel I want to remember this. Why? Because I want to get the story down in a white-hot heat. I don't want to leap ahead to structural analysis - to fretting about the arc and so forth. In fact, I am probably only worrying about the first part - the narration. I feel like I am definitely telling the story at this point. Well, I am a pantser tried and true. I have to tell the story first because I have no idea what it is. Then I'll go back and add more dialogue and description. I just put in place holders at this point. When I read this my internal editor loosens her grip. I remember that at least for now, it is not my business to find plot - I just want the story. King goes on to say something in this part of the book that I think of ALL the time - that is that to him 'stories are found things, like fossils in the ground' and that it is our job to get it out of the ground intact - or as intact as possible using the tools in our toolbox to do so. I love this image. He says that of all the tools we have at our disposal - plot is like a jackhammer. It may get the story out but it will break as much as it liberates. He goes on to say that it is the good writer's last resort and the lousy writer's first one.

Now I must go to my wip - Good Enough - and do a little more excavating. I discovered yesterday that one of my protagonist's daughters would like to speak - so now my story has two protagonists. I like this. The book just got way wider. The joy!

6 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Oh, I LIKE that Stephen King quote, it speaks loudly to me.

Liza said...

This is one of my favorite writing books. And by including this quote you've given me great hope. I've got a few chapters on something new written, but I have zero idea of where it is going. Now, I may have the confidence to do some excavating. Stories are found things indeed! Lovely.

L.C. Frost said...

Loved this post. On Writing is such a great resource--awesome image to pull from there. It's actually pretty perfect for me to hear right now. :-) Thanks, Jan!

Elizabeth Twist said...

Thanks for sharing this. One can get too technical on a first draft.

grrl + dog said...

Michelaneglo said something similar about sculpture, that the figure is in the marble and it's the job of the sculptor to free it.

I'm still plodding away on a shot film, and I find the same delimmas. Need to let go and let the film do itself.

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Thanks so much for sharing that quote! I really like the idea of the story as something that the writer shares with readers. That implies that the characters have lives of their own and I like that.