1. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Scrapping the traditional "plot"

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Duchess-Yukine-Suoh, Nov 15, 2013.

    Most stories have an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion, no?

    Well, the only way I can write my story is by scrapping all of it. I'm writing about a 9-year-old sweatshop worker in a 3rd world country. Most people assume that I will write a happy ending, but I won't, because I can't.

    What I want to convey is the despair of the situation. I want to convey the poverty, the tears, the hunger, the pain. I want to convey how, try as she might, she will never get out of poverty. I can't do that if she gets rich at the end, you know what I'm saying?

    So, although my story ends on a note of hope, it's essentially "Daily life in a sweatshop". Will this make for a sucky story or can I pull it off?
     
  2. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Ok, I kind of missed the "note of hope" in your synopsis of the synopsis.

    But such stories (not yours in particular, but the idea of not ending happy) has been done, "Of Mice and Men" and "The Grapes of Wrath" is just two of those. So it certainly can work.
     
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  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What you said had nothing to do with "scrapping the traditional plot". A bitter-sweet or tragic conclusion is still a conclusion.

    Haven't you ever read books with a sad ending? Give The Kite Runner a ago :D I'm still not sure if I wanna read anymore of his work because the story was so miserable lol - but it was certainly a success that many readers loved.
     
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  4. hubble_bubble
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    hubble_bubble New Member

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    I'm not sure if that constitutes as scrapping 'plot', but it would indeed work as a story. Try reading 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. Its an autobiographical account of one man's experience in a Soviet Russian work camp. Very similar idea, and I think it would probably cover many of the themes you're looking to deal with. I won't spoil anything, but it certainly doesn't have a happy ending!
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But an unhappy ending is still a plot.

    I would say that your story has to go somewhere. A story that's essentially, "It was horrible. And horrible. And also horrible. See how horrible?" isn't a story, it's a description. You can raise hopes and dash them. You could focus on some other story--rescuing a duck, trying to buy an onion, whatever--and wrap it up in the sweatshop. You could give her some tiny personal triumph, and then have her trudging back to work. You could have her redirect her focus to something, and then take that away, too. The story can end on a "down", but I'd say that it has to have some ups and downs.

    Edited to add: And if you're worried that a moment of happiness will undermine your point, I promise that it won't. A story that's nothing but misery won't draw people in--they'll just stop reading. You need to make people care about the character, and caring requires hope. Once they're on the hook, that's when you can take the hope away. :)
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    So far so good. Not sure why you're worried this is a bad thing. :)


    As for other successes in the not quite happy ending genre, Hemingway comes to mind along with Steinbeck.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    All of it? So what is in there? No intro, no climaxes? If there's no rising action, there's no tension, and if there's no tension, it'll be hard to keep your reader imterested. Unless we're talking about newsarticles although even those often have some kind of sctructure or at the very least a conclusion. Even autobiographies follow some kind of a red thread that spans through the story with its highs and lows.

    Many people also know that kids in sweatshops don't always have bright futures ahead, so I'm not sure would most people expect a happy ending, not in this day and age anyway. You can pull off any ending you like, but you can't just list bad stuff and fin, because lists are often boring reads, or at least you could do better, write a story that appeals a lot of people to get your message across.

    If she got rich in the end, you'd probably have a less believable story in your hands than if she doesn't really get anywhere. But you have to have hope, give the reader something that will keep them reading. You can only get so far with readers wondering what's the next horrible thing that'll happen. If you don't contrast horrible with hope, horribleness will lose its effect eventually.

    Again, if you write a list of stuff that happens, it's probably going to be a quite sucky story, if I may be frank. But if you employ at least some of the tools used for a gripping plot, it will do better justice to your 9-year-old and her story because, unfortunately, a good plot is what keeps most people reading, so I'm not sure why you'd want to scrap it altogether. Yeah, scrap the "traditional" happy ending by all means; surely you've read good novels or autobiographies with such endings? Even they offer closure though, a conclusion of some kind, and that's also important because it just makes your story more effective and memorable, and you want that, you want readers to find and read the story of a sweatshop girl, right?
     
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  8. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    And Kes.
     
  9. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    And to be fair its the rise fall and bumps in the road that will make it a story and not a diary entry.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's not 'plot'... it's one version of 'plot structure'...

    and scrapping any normal plot structure for just a series of unrelieved miseries without a happy ending is extremely risky for anyone who's not as brilliant a writer as steinbeck, solzhenitsyn and company...

    that said, you'll never know if it can work till you've written it... no one here or anywhere else can predict you'll pull it off without seeing how you write it... so if that's what you want most to write, then just do it!
     
  11. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Well, it seems that what constitutes plot is not entirely concrete. According to Truby, these are plots
    1. The Journey Plot
    2. The Three Unities Plot
    3. The Reveals Plot
    4. Antiplot
    5. Genre Plot
    6. Multistrand Plot
    Another expert on story craft said plot was the order, sequence and length of scenes. So, who knows.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A plot is much simpler than that.; deceptively so. It is also the vitally powerful building block of stories.

    A plot consists of four elements: an actor, a goal or objective, a motivation, and an opposition. A network of interacting plots is what drives the events of s story.

    See What is Plot Creation and Development?.
     
  13. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    That sounds more like low level traits of a story, not really plot. In fact, that is four of the very base seven points of a story according to Truby, but as I said, who knows what is plot. It seems plot is like art, you know it when you see it, but it's nearly impossible to define because it means different things to different people.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Plot is low level. What is often referred to as plot is really the storyline, a chronology of story events. A storyline tells you what happened, but the plots explain why. Understanding the dynamics of plot is the best way to keep the story flowing.

    There is often a central plot that defines the overall direction of a story. In all but the simplest short stories, one plot is not enough.

    Plot not only can be defined, it should be thoroughly understood.
     
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  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, I'm just wondering why you couldn't write this story with a traditional story structure? Is it just because of the unhappy ending stuff? If so, there's no problem.
     
  16. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    I like this and will follow it.
    Because the point I'm making is that there's no way this girl can get out of her life. It's endless torture.
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but that is not an obstacle for a traditional story structure. Lots of stories end that way, with the characters life going on like before or worse. The main thing is not that they win in the end but that they have a goal (to get something or get away from something for example) of some kind, and something or someone standing in their way, like Cog said above. Without those components some people would argue if there is a story at all. Some things have to be there to call it a novel/story.
     
  18. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    But her goal is so vague, so ongoing, that it can't be a simple "mountain" story.
     
  19. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    I'd start off with the best thing that happens, only that's a tragedy. The ending? The kid is scarred for life by backbreaking obstacles. Think of The Terry Fox Story.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Terry_Fox_Story

    It may not catch the eyes of those who like happy endings, but those of us who are hard edge realists might give you an audience.
     
  20. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    The traditional story plot isn't the happy ending, it's a resolution that brings about an equilibrium.

    "Moby Dick" doesn't have a happy ending.
    "Hamlet" doesn't have a happy ending.
    "Oedipus" doesn't have a happy ending.
    "Pan's Labyrinth" doesn't have a total happy ending.

    Tragedies are a form of story. Is your story a tragedy? If you see it as such, write it as so.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
  21. O. Snow
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    I would recommend that you write however you feel best about. People have a tendency to adhere to traditional plot structures because that is what we have always been taught to do. However, writing is first and foremost an art form. Any artist employs technique in an attempt to improve his ability to communicate his message. If we may pardon a foreign example, consider the famous violinist Jascha Heifetz. He was not a technically correct violinist according to traditional standards, but he has been hailed as one of the greatest violinists of all time regardless. The reason being that his sound was superb in quality. In short, he abandoned technique to improve his performance.

    I believe a similar approach should be taken to all art forms, including the medium of writing. Embrace the traditional structures and techniques insofar as they improve your communication, and abandon them immediately if they are hindering your work. After all, the greatest writing does not come out of cookie cutter formatting, but from an artists genuine and organic voice.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
  22. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    To add to my list:

    "Requiem for a Dream" doesn't have a happy ending at all and the resolution is a hard one with equilibrium being that the four people's lives have crashed and burned and they have no where to go but up, if they even make the effort.
     
  23. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @Cogito , @ChickenFreak and @KaTrian have all made excellent points. The only thing I will add is that you are at an age when you have not yet established your writing voice. This sounds like the kind of story it's important to write, more for what the writing of it will do for you than what will become of the story itself. Write it and don't worry if it's "sucky". If it is, you'll know soon enough.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You know what I like about your story idea, @Duchess-Yukine-Suoh? You have a story in mind that you want to tell. Your character has a story and you want to tell it. That's what a writer writes, a story they want to tell. Good for you.
     
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  25. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think you need to ask yourself:

    1) What does this sweatshop girl want?
    2) What does she do, to attempt to get what she wants?
    3) What are the people/forces/circumstances that get in her way, that keep her from getting what she wants?
    4) How does she counteract these obstacles? Do these efforts succeed or fail?
    5) Will she get what she wants at the end?

    The actual answers to these questions are up to you ...including the final answer which may well be 'no.' But if you answer all these questions while telling your story, you'll have built a plot.
     
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