Six impossible things

Posts Tagged plot

Character-based plotting…not

The first time I heard an editor talk about character-based plotting, it made me think I was doing something wrong. (This was around 25 years ago, mind.) “Your characters have to want something, and want it badly,” he said. “That’s where you start. All the best plots […]

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Jigsaw puzzles and Tinker Toys

Sometimes it seems that there are a zillion different metaphors for how writers construct a plot. There’s the sculpture metaphor (carve away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant). There’s the pottery-making metaphor (add a lump of clay, work it until you have the center, then shape […]

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The Wrong Approach, A Personal Example

Plot is one of the things that has nearly always come easy for me. I had to spend a long time learning how to develop characters, how to write dialog that didn’t sound like one person monologuing, how to put together a setting that worked, and how […]

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Fairy tales and plot

Years ago, when I was just starting to learn my craft, I attended a panel at which someone asked a question about plotting, plots, and how to come up with a good plot. One of the panelists immediately replied that the best way to learn to plot […]

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Idiot Plots

An idiot plot was first defined by James Blish as a plot that only hangs together because all of the main characters act like idiots. I’d add “…when they’re not supposed to be idiots,” because there are plenty of effective (usually comic) stories where the point is that […]

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Noon vs. Midnight

“You can’t tell stories about sunshine.” – Garrison Keillor Last Sunday, I was listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” as I frequently do of a Sunday morning, and the news from Lake Woebegone was about a group of men going out bass fishing on a day that […]

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Hats and Rabbits

Writing isn’t magic. You can’t just say “Presto! A rabbit!” and pull a rabbit out of a hat. (Well, you can, but nobody is likely to believe it.) No, if you’re going to pull a rabbit out of a hat, you have to start by sneaking the […]

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Being mean

Lots of writers talk about being mean to their characters. Lots of critique groups tell writers to be meaner to their characters, to figure out what the worst possible thing is that can happen to that character, and then somehow make it happen. Of course, it has […]

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Plots without villains

More than once over the years, I’ve run into writers who complain about writing villains or who have trouble finding a “Big Bad” for their stories. Usually, they’ve somehow gotten the impression that every story has to have a villain of some sort, who has to be […]

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Killing them softly…

“He was already dead when I got there” is a common claim in mystery novels, but all too often it’s also the answer when fans ask writers “Why did you kill off my favorite character?” And as with mystery novels, the claim is frequently disbelieved, especially when […]

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