clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tyranny of the Plot

At left, one of my favorite tyrants: Uncle Joe.

Pol Pot is my all-time favorite but you wouldn't recognize him. Bad press agent. Stalin? Great press. Ask Putin.

Anyway - tyranny of the plot. This is the reliance on a chain of cause-and-effect relationships used to tell your story. Too bad it doesn't work.

Shit happens.

Why did sharks eat the marlin in Hemingway's classic? They were hungry? They had time before the #13 bus?

Who knows. Hemingway knew the reason was to increase the barriers to the protagonist's success. In the end, he uses this to redefine the protagonist's success.

You have a story. It seems reasonable and balanced and - to quote John Mellencamp - has "little pink houses for you and me." Burn. Them. Down.

Why? Who knows. Wildfire. Careless smoking. Brother-in-law is a firebug. You can't have aliens do it unless you are pitching science fiction. The devil can't do it unless you are willing to endure the scorn of paranormal haters.

I've read a bunch of well-crafted even-keel work lately where problems are solved, can be solved, and bore the snot out of me by being solved.

Please, cascade some chaos into that logical-worldview model you put on the page. Nothing in life follows the logical-worldview model. I know. I spent a lot of my life mapping it. In the end, a great deal is determined by individuals exercising control beyond their strict limits of authority and egos drive actions more frequently than considered reason.

We're walking balls of whim as much as logic. Make some shit happen. Then make some more shit happen.

Ignore the asshole who in your reading group who says: "that won't happen that way."

Of course it will. You the author are going to present it to me and I in turn am going to suspend disbelief because of your wonderful prose.

Cause isn't effect. Write that down. Cause isn't effect. Also, an event chain is chaotic. The killer does something we don't expect. The secretary is in on it. The wife already knows about the cheating and has her own lover: the soviet spy. The phone call isn't answered. The hero cuts the blue wire instead of the red one.

Walk around the room and do something unexpected. Take off your pants. Or, in the case of Alyse Carlson (watery tart) .... put some on.

Now, write something then write something more. Tinfoil hats get extra-credit.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Well said! And it irritates me when people say, "Life's not like that." Life *is* like that. Besides, conflict-free books where problems are easily solved are dead boring.

jack welling said...

Boy, we are on the same page there!

Comes from a love of bar-b-que, I'm sure.