1. ugu
    Offline

    ugu Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0

    What Makes a Plot a Plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ugu, Jun 4, 2008.

    I've been reading reviews of several books where the main complain is "there is no plot." I have read those books and I personally thought there was some sort of plot in that something was going on. I guess although I know what a plot technically is, I don't know the difference between good plot and bad plot. Care to explain?
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    This belongs in Writing Issues -> Plot Creation, so I'm moving it there.

    Just last week I began a thread, What Is Plot Creation and Development, addressing that very question.
     
  3. Scribe Rewan
    Offline

    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Messages:
    371
    Likes Received:
    2
    That's such a difficult question lol. But you do know what a good plot is, and what a bad one is- it's what you think a good/ bad plot. The difference between them is opinion. It doesn't matter how well crafted a story is, there's always going to be someone who'll say 'that was too unbelieveable' or 'that relied so much on coincidence.' Take Harry Potter 7, for example. Some people may say it was masterful the way J.K Rowling used the three magical items to create a powerful triad, I personally just think it's stupid that she based a large part of her book on the game of Rock/Paper/Scissors!

    I suppose there are two types of plot, to be very general. One which holds together the action, and one which drives to story, a story which action may be a part of.

    I suppose the best way to think of a book that people have said has no plot is to think of them like films. Take Transformers- a good movie, but it had a plot that was only there as an excuse for lots of special effects/fights etc.

    But take a film like The Matrix. Now that had a plot. (In my opinion.)

    It's so hard to decide what makes a good plot and a bad one, because people are so different. Personal i like very complicated plots, where the main story and sub plots weave in amongst each other. I like books full of twists. Other people might prefer something simple, where you know exactly where the story is heading, but the pleasure is in the journey, rather than with twists, where it comes from not knowing what's goign to happen next.

    Also I think when they say 'there is no plot' they are being hyperbolical. A lot of books have plots that could be summarised in one sentence, but it's easier to say they have no plot whatsoever!

    I hope that made sense, and was somehow in some degree helpful!
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    A story can have a storyline but lack a central plot. Plot revolves around an internal or external conflict, favorably or unfavorably resolved as the story progresses.

    So saying a story has no plot is not necessarily hyperbole.

    As for whether a plot is good or bad, that's much more anaesthetic point. A plot may be well or poorly balanced with the events of the storyline, or it may or may not be logically consistent.

    Is a plot bad if the resulting changes in the characters don't fit with it? That's arguable. The plot may be at fault, or the character's portrayal. It probably can be argued either way in most cases.
     
  5. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    short answer:
    a plot will have a beginning [the set-up], a middle [conflict/hurdles to be overcome] and an ending [resolution]...

    short stories don't have to have a plot, but usually do... novels and screenplays really need to have a plot, though you may find exceptions here and there...

    here's a brilliant take on the subject by an eminent author:

     
  6. Anliya
    Offline

    Anliya Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Sometimes in NYC, sometimes in MA
    I think for something to have a plot, all the events need to be coherent (i.e. tie back to one main point or goal), whereas something without a plot simply outlines what happens without any analysis or hint of why it happened. A plot can be something as obvious as solving a murder mystery, or it can be something as unspecific as searching for the meaning of life. If there are multiple goals, they should all tie together somehow to make a bigger plot. Does that make any sense at all, or am I just rambling? :)
     
  7. Smithy
    Offline

    Smithy Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    0
    It makes perfect sense to me, but where does theme fit into all of this then?
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    See the other thread reference in the second post of this thread. :)
     
  9. Anliya
    Offline

    Anliya Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Sometimes in NYC, sometimes in MA
    Oh, I should have read that earlier actually! It's a bad habit of mine to just read the first and last post. Cogito, is that post just an interpretation, or are those official definitions? I'm not a professional writer nor have I studied the creative writing process, so I have no idea if I should believe you, but I'd like to since your definitions make perfect sense.
     
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Those are my interpretations from several sources, but I believe they are reasonably accurate. Mammamaia also gave a good alternate definition of a plot which is causality-based rather than conflict-based; however, without a conflict, the resolution stage is harder to pin down.

    These are discussions. I'm not an authority, and there are many valid viewpoints.
     
  11. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    Thank you for that quote mammamaia. I don't think I've ever read a simpler, more understandable explanation.

    I just read a story on another website about a firefight in Vietnam. The writing was outstanding. It captured the essence of an ambush and the soldiers' response, including panic felt by one who struggled to get emergency medical care for a fallen comrade who was clearly not going to make it.

    Several "reviewers" complained that it had no "plot". For me, the "plot" was clear and compelling. From the first surprise attack until the last mortar destroyed the enemy, I saw a systematic process - gain immediate safety (often called "take cover"), assess the threat, take stock of your assets to deal with the threat, coordinate the response (which happens in layers of engagement) and counterattack. The readers who simply saw a "bunch of action" did not benefit from the perspective brought by having been trained in warfare. I read this thrilling scene, following the process with great anticipation as any change in the nature of the threat, changes all the chess pieces. The problem is, all these things happen in a five minute engagement.

    I feel a successful "plot" depends to a significant degree on the author knowing his intended reader and writing accordingly.

    Just my two cents.
     
  12. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    Cog,

    I responded to this thread before reading your other thread on plot development. After reading it, I would suggest this entire thread be attached to the other one in the interest of consolidation of information.
     

Share This Page