1. Mackers
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    Mackers Contributing Member

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    Pieces of writing which dispense with conventional plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mackers, Jun 1, 2013.

    As readers, I'm curious about people's opinions on this.

    I want to ask what are people's tolerance for writing that doesn't conform to a conventional, linear plot? Could you put up with writing that plays around with a general theme instead of "here's the beginning, this happens, then this, then this, then the end"

    If the writing strives to maintain a threshold of coherence but may seem a bit wayward by traditional standards, what would you think?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's meant to be fiction and there's no discernible plot, i probably wouldn't waste time reading it...
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I would think it would take a cultivated palette to tackle such a work. I'm on a Delany jag right now, so let's use him for an example. In his novel Dhalgren, the flow of events is non-linear and flexes into some really strange areas. There are sections of the novel where it goes bizarrely metafictional in that the character is reading and quoting sections of the very novel you are reading. It becomes a hypercube, undulating and folding in on itself. But even that undulating, folding structure has purpose in the tell of the story, in what is happening around the actors. It's not just a, "Look, ma'! No hands!" deal. It's a beast of a book, but an amazing read. Perhaps if you gave an example of what you intend and why it's meaningful to the story you are writing, our input might be more efficacious.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You see a lot of this in discussions of literary fiction. Most people don't have a real high tolerance for it. However, those that love it REALLY love it. You could get a small "cult" following but pieces of writing like those you describe usually don't become blockbuster mega-hits. Of course, what you've written has to have really deep character developments and/or present issues or philosophies that lend themselves to extensive pondering and debate.

    A couple examples of this sort of writing that come to mind are David Foster Wallace's stuff and Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, but only as long as the writing itself is good. One example of this is Samuel Beckett. In one of his novels, the character is in a room by himself thinking about random things. The reader is given nothing but the character's thoughts for most of the novel. It's certainly unconventional, but it's readable and interesting enough.
     
  6. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    As with all writing, it is how you write the thing and not whether it is in a linear format which counts. Either you have the ability at this point in your development as a writer to pull it off, or you do not. The tolerance of the reading public (in general) is that if you write in a interesting way that in some way keeps their interest from page to page then that is all that matters--mostly anyway. You do need to give them something they can relate to, compel them to try and understand, or make them curious about how it will all end up.
     
  7. Audiomeleska
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    Audiomeleska New Member

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    There are two reasons I see for stepping outside of the conventional plot pattern, either to enhance the story or the reading experience or artistic license. In the first case, breaking the conventional line will provide an experience that would not be possible otherwise. The latter is done just to stand out for doing something irregular.

    I think both reasons have their place, but the artistic license is appreciated by fewer people but tend to become devoted fans. Songs have their common pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus. While their are variations on this, the structure is very common, particularly in popular music. These types of songs have a much wider audience than say, experimental jazz which has little common structure from song to song.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm curious as to what you consider a 'cultivated' palette [palate?] to be, wrey...

    i've read almost every kind of writing you can think of, short of hard core porn, so how much more 'cultivated' could my palate be?... and how/why would your version of a 'cultivated' one make a person want to 'tackle' such writing?
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ha! :) Good question. I didn't mean to come off as high-brow. I meant in the way that most people have to learn to like red wine. Some few claim to find it delicious from the first glass, but I think these are few and far between and I hold suspect that they exist at all. I personally have no palette for red wine. I've tried. No matter how I come at it, it all tastes like ass to me unless it's Germanly sweet and white. The example I gave of Delany's work, which fits very much the description of the OP, is often lauded as a triumph of the sc-fi genre, but the truth is that most people who claim a love for the genre usually speak to me of this book to the tune of, "Oh, yeah. Dhalgren. I tried to get through it. It was like pulling out my fingernails." And I meant tackle as a reader, not a writer, since that was the stipulation in the OP's question.
     
  10. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    One argument that I don't quite understand when it comes to writing "unconventionally" (for some guys writing in 1.person is unconventional!) is that old "yes, but it has to be done really well and it needs to have deep characters and to have a meaningful plot and deep philosophical issues and to be extremely good and a potential Nobel" in order to accept non-linear narrative or metafictional stuff, or whatever.
    Does that mean that you are prepared to read a "conventional", straight, linear, past-tense-3rdpPoV etc book that has no deep characters, no meaningful plot, no philosophical issues, is not very good etc...? And say "well, it's okey..." But if it's "fancy" in style and deviates a bit from main-stream, then "IT BETTER BE DARN GOOD"!
     
  11. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, so there you have a nice clean distinction : somebody reads Meyer, somebody reads Proust. A lot of people read crap, a much smaller group reads good stuff :) It's called "elitism" and most proponents of liberal democracy hate it (not to mention kids growing up on MTV) :)
     
  12. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    It depends on what you mean by unconventional. If a story is total jumble that does not have cohesive connections from point A to point B then I don't see the point in writing or reading it. What I mean by that is if the story feels like a bunch of snippets thrown together with nothing to connect them it would just be a huge mess.
     
  13. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    Oh you mean like having to read "Seinfeld" in novel format? ...No
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    btw, wrey, a 'palette' is what an artist mixes oil paints on... 'palate' is what refers to one's 'taste'...
     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like Infinite Jest?
     

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