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  1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    Did I just write a story without a plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by deadrats, Jul 21, 2016.

    I just got some feedback on a super new and rough short story. I know it needs some work, but I was thinking this piece might get by with some polishing vs. a complete rewrite. I felt so good after writing this story that I went to a non-writer I live with just to see what someone else besides me thought of it. This person said there didn't seem to be a plot. Really? No plot in twenty pages? Is it even possible to write a twenty page story with no plot? I'm sure it is, but I don't think I've ever done that. Stuff happens in my short stories. They've even been called plot heavy. When I explained what the plot was to my reader, she said she could see it now, but that might have been because she just didn't want to get me upset.

    To me, this story has a clear beginning, middle and end. There is a climax. I don't know how my reader didn't see this. Have any of you ever written a plotless story or been told you wrote a plotless story? I really don't know what to think of this or how to process it.

    I'm not going to go through the whole plot I used for this story because it seems very clear that there is a plot if I'm just talking about it. My fear is that I've done something wrong in the execution of this idea. Any advice on what I should look for while going back through my story?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'd be hesitant to jump to conclusions based on a single datum. Get two or three additional beta readers. Don't mention this issue. If they all come back with the same concern, then you may have a problem.
     
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  3. ManOrAstroMan

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    It's absolutely possible. They call it Literary Fiction.
     
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  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Good literary fiction has a plot. It may be subtle, but it's there.
     
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  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    I know what you are saying makes sense, but if I in fact wrote a really bad or plotless story, I really don't want to share that with anyone. I have a critique group, but that is where I take my best stuff. This appears to not be my best. I mean it should be clear if I have a plot or not to anyone. Even if I had a bunch more people read it and they think there is a plot, it's got to be a somewhat week plot or poorly done, for even one person to say there isn't a plot. I keep thinking I must have done something wrong. Saying there is no plot carries a lot of weight. To my first and only reader of this story, it wasn't a story at all. I feel very confused right now.
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    I do write literary fiction. It's what I read too. I don't know why some people don't think literary fiction has plots. It does. And I am for sure trying to write the kind that does.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    How much do you trust this reader's opinion? I wouldn't say it is necessarily weak or poorly done. For example, you can see from the post after mine that people view literary fiction as not having a plot. But that's not true. The plot may be subtle. That doesn't make it bad. It could be a great story that one person has had a poor reaction too, or you could really have an issue. The best way to determine that is to have others read it. The alternative is to simply decide it for yourself, but I think more feedback would be helpful.
     
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  8. JD Anders

    JD Anders Member

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    Ask any high schooler what their thoughts on Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises are and many of them will tell you it doesn't have a plot.

    I tend to take that assessment with a grain of salt.
     
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  9. Lyrical

    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Meet the qualifications on here and post it in the workshop - we'll help you figure out if there is plot or not and we wont judge you as a person or tell your critique group if it's not up to snuff :p

    But I agree with the others - don't let one single critique determine the quality of your story, no matter how much you like the one giving the critique. If 99% of people love your story, and 1% don't, it means you have a still have a wild success on your hands.
     
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  10. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    As has been said, how much do you trust this person? As a fellow-aspiring-writer, I've beta-read some stuff that isn't quite my taste, and taken a chill-pill over the genre, and read it for its writing alone. Any comment I make about something such as genre is tempered with a very heavy "but that's just my opinion, and I don't much like this stuff".

    Is it possible that your reader "doesn't read literary fiction"? As has been mentioned, literary fiction tends to have a subtle plot - perhaps more of a theme than a plot - as opposed to the plot that slaps you in the face in a Harrison Ford action movie. Perhaps that's what your reader meant by "no plot"?

    OK, what to do now? Put it away, and go and do something else. Come back to it in six months' time and re-read it. Either you'll go "gosh, I was so rubbish back then" or "did I write that? It's genius!"
     
  11. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unanimity requires compliance Contributor

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    Kafka. Don't remember which story, but damned if I could find a plot.

    His will specified that all his work be burned unread.

    Out of respect, I honor that wish whenever possible.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, my, yes. I've written tens of thousands of words with no plot, during NaNoWriMo.

    Which doesn't mean that your story has no plot. I just felt like answering that question.
     
  13. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    Thanks for all the responses. My reader over here has read a lot of my stuff. This was the first time I got the no-plot response. I guess I'm feeling a little off my game.
     
  14. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Some questions to ask yourself:

    Do you have a main character?
    Does the main character have a goal, something he is working toward?
    Will something very bad happen if he does not achieve the goal?
    Will something bad happen if he does achieve the goal?
    Does he encounter difficulty along the way?
    Does he eventually succeed or fail in a meaningful way?

    This is a gross oversimplification, but if you can answer yes to these questions then there is likely a plot laying around somewhere in your story. Perhaps it needs some polishing to bring it out. Often, if your MC has a strong burning desire and has something big to lose if he does not achieve it, plot is right around the corner. This sort of tension has a way of driving a story. The conflict is deeper if there is also something bad that may happen if he does achieve the goal. This creates energy that turns pages.

    Hope this helps. Don't feel bad about writing 20 pages with no plot. I wrote three hundred completely superfluous pages in my first novel.

    best of luck!
     
  15. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say it depends on your interpretation of the word 'plot'. What is a plot? I'm sure I don't really know, and I suspect many others don't really know either. Does Kerourac's On the Road have a plot? Someone would argue not.

    I once heard this given as an explanation on the matter:

    'The Queen died, and then the King died.' is a story.
    'The Queen died, and then the King died of a broken heart.' is a plot.
     
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  16. NeeNee

    NeeNee Member

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    Hollywood makes movies with no plot all the time and make millions, just saying.
     
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  17. taariya

    taariya Member

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    Are you talking about The Trial?

    I think the point of that whole novel was that it made no sense, the character had no idea what was happening and why and could only speculate as things happened to him, and in the end none of it mattered. Kafka meant to demonstrate the terrifying obliqueness and absolute power of totalitarian governments through casting an everyday man as an alleged criminal with no knowledge of having committed a crime because that's the kind of persecution dictatorships practice on everyday citizens cast as scapegoats or outliers. In that respect I believe it succeeded and is worth reading just for analyzing, but it is terribly boring if you don't go in with an analysis instead of entertainment mindset, much like Camus' The Stranger.

    I didn't like the Trial all that much. It's like The Castle (also by Kafka, also virtually plotless), except it isn't funny. But it's one of my main reasons for arguing that literary fiction doesn't always have a plot and doesn't always need one, either. It's all about commentary, criticism, and themes as far as I'm concerned, and if a cohesive and readily identifiable plot is part of conveying that then fine, if not it doesn't matter.
     
  18. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unanimity requires compliance Contributor

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    Probably The Trial. Does it end with him just being taken out back and shot or something, and accepting that it was necessary?

    Anyway, what I really dislike about Kafka is the way his work lets some writers churn out things without plot or logic, and then defend their work by saying "It's Kafkaesque." May be true in some cases, but to go to another medium, just because you knocked over a bunch of paint cans doesn't make you Jackson Pollock.

    None of this to apply to the OP, of course, just threadjacking :)
     
  19. taariya

    taariya Member

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    I propose that a new word "Kafkaesqueesque" be invented be invented to describe these works.

    In all seriousness though, people forget that literary fiction needs to have literary merit and it ends up like those contemporary art pieces where you want to see something deep and meaningful in the dots on the canvas, but can't, and people pretend that's because it's true art above the level of the average uncultured human and not because it has no meaning. Nothing wrong with not having a meaning and just being a good piece of art objectively (medium, colors, values, form, motion, rhythm, etc.) but call an egg an egg.

    Now, to the original poster! ...Mostly what other people have already said about getting other readers and remembering that plot is a tool in literary fiction, not an essential. Yeah.
     
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  20. laurasiren12

    laurasiren12 Member

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    Never just take one's persons thought on the subject, take a few people or leave it a while and then go back to the story. I've done that with a story I wrote years ago and I saw how terrible it was. Yes I know we're talking about plots but maybe just show it to more people.
     

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