1. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Writing without a plot...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by AVCortez, Apr 30, 2013.

    I'm currently in the process of writing a novella length story that does not have a defined plot. It has an overall man Vs. self(suicide related), but aside from that it is a plot-less drug bender through Europe. I am used to writing high fantasy so I've always got a very defined start middle and end.

    What I'm wondering is; In a man vs. self story (so long as each encounter gives the character some new learning) can they be pretty much random, and not tied together at all. Or does there really need to be a main plot line that runs throughout?

    Also, I haven't read many books I would consider man vs. self (Lights out in wonderland being the only one I can think of and that has a very good and linear plot), so any recommendations would be great.
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you need some story arch, even if it's not solving a mystery etc. I've read more woman vs. self novels, like Push or The Story of My Life. There isn't a clear-cut plot, I think, but there's stuff to look forward to (will Precious make it out of her life situation, when's Alison Poole gonna crack cos she's burning the candle at both ends.)

    Apples by Richard Milward was rather plot-less too but quite fun to read. I mean, the plot in essence was of Adam wanting to be with Eve. Nothing more complicated than that. My point is, the author has to introduce some over-arching goal (or several) to keep the reader interested. If it's pointless, random running around, tripping on your own shoelaces cos you smoked sativa instead of indica, that can get boring.

    Brass by Helen Walsh is a good example of a novel that went to hell when it tried to get plot-ty. So, I guess this also depends on the novel.

    The myster of Millie's mother, why'd she leave? Oh, daddy cheated on her. O rly? Oh and Jamie's been in love with Millie the whole time and starts to act like a bitch in the end.

    Anyway, those are some examples of novels that are mostly about the person vs. self situation, if I understood the concept correctly.
     
  3. gwilson
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    gwilson Member

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    Could it possible that you have a plot and don't realize it?

    Or you could give it a plot, like an adventure plot, where the story's focus isn't so much about the character(s) as it is about the events and surroundings - for instance in/through Europe, which could interest the reader even without a traditional three-act structure. Or, you could create a new story with a new character, and thread the two stories together, alternating chapters or what have you, and then, toward the end, have the two characters meet - it wouldn't have to have a true resolution but it might appear so while giving the reader some closure.
     
  4. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    It has a plot in a sense. The main character is taking the trip as a kind of planned suicide, so I suppose the overlaying plot is a 'will he won't he' sort of scenario. But whether or not that is enough, I suppose it depends heavily on how it's done and whether or not people like the character.

    I think I'll have to settle on it being a very niche story. Although it has the "plot" I mentioned. It's as much a collection of ideas about "backpacking" and society as a whole, as it is an actual story. We'll see. I plan to release it as an e-book so there's not to much stress about making appeal to a broad market. I've just been brainstorming ideas and realised I should perhaps focus more on the overall plot than the encounters.
     
  5. YugiohPro01
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    YugiohPro01 Member

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    I'd say that you need a plot / story to have some sort of flow in the novella; however, as with many literary fiction works, the plot doesn't necessarily need to move along in a pace that the reader finds comforting.

    To put simply, no work needs a linear plot to function. You don't need to follow the famous ancient greek rules of drama - some works do, but breaking the rules is all too often acceptable and even encouraged. The thing that you need in a work like this (suicide-related and such) is perhaps placing the character in ways that he recalls his / her memories. The entire plot could be an individual standing on a roof and attempting to kill himself / herself, and whilst facing such a decision, you could bring him to recall important memories.

    The entire point is to experiment. Let the first draft be just that: an experiment. And then, see where it leads you. It might go wrong, in which case you'll always be able to fix it. But, there is also the possibility of it becoming incredibly great - even if nothing is actually going on except for the character's thoughts.

    In any case, I think the most helpful exercise would be this: try to write a synopsis of the novella - that way you'll see exactly how it holds up plot-wise.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    There exists the idea that writers of literary fiction scoff at this notion called "plot." Take that with a grain of salt, but realize that it is acceptable to focus more on character development than on actual plot. What you have sounds like it should be sufficient. Catcher in the Rye is an example of a classic piece of literary fiction. A very recent novel I wrote is called Too Bright to Hear To Loud to See, about a man with bipolar disorder who goes off his medication and travels the world for ten years. I mention that one because it sounds a little bit similar to what you said you are writing.

    There's a lot of lit fic out there. Another book I recently read, which I consider almost quintessentially literary, in that there really is very little "plot" per se is The Elegance of the Hedgehog. But that one is nothing like what you mention you have in mind. But I always think of it when I'm wondering about the importance of a heavy plot.
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Remember that a plot and a story is different. Your story is, as you say, "The main character is taking the trip as a kind of planned suicide, so I suppose the overlaying plot is a 'will he won't he' sort of scenario." The plot, on the other hand, is as follows: "A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance." So your plot could focus on flashbacks, flashforwards, sub-plots, etc.

    Every piece of creative writing has a story.
     
  8. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    It appears to me that you are writing about the days or weeks before a suicide, and what happens throughout your story will determine if your character go through with it or not. To me that sounds like all you need to make the story work. After you finish writing the story you can go back and look for a more clear overall story arc, and work out what message you want to story to convey. Then make it clearer in the second draft if needed.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Man vs self is a plot in the strictest sense, once you determine what the goal or objective is (survival, for example). The actor is the actor, and the opposition is also the actor. The balance between motivation and opposition (counter-motivation) is what drives the story.

    What is essential to a story is some sort of movement, even if it is the acceptance of a stalemate. There is some manner of change, and that defines the story's flow.

    A "story" with no movement is a static description of a scene or condition. Occasionally such a piece appears for critique, and they are invariably hammered for lacking anything resembling a story line.
     

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