Friday, January 16, 2009

Over The Fence: Plot


I saw my neighbor, Larry, waiting at the fence and walked over to him.

"Hey," he said, "I wondered if you'd forgotten that we were supposed to meet."

"Nope, if I recall we're supposed to discuss plot."

"That's right."

"I suppose we should start by defining what a plot is."

He nodded.

"Not to make it overly simplistic, it's what happens in the story."

"That's it?"

"Not really. In truth the plot is built from a number of significant events. In your mystery now, what is the significant event?"

"The crime? I'm thinking making it a murder mystery."

"That's a good start, most mysteries are about murder. Robbery and caper novels seem to be more thriller than mystery."

Larry's brow furled. "I thought they were the same thing."

"Similar but different. Both usually start with a crime. The difference is that in thriller, everyone knows who did it, or is planning to do it. The plot then becomes, how do we stop him or her. Mystery, on the other hand, is a 'whodunnit'. We, neither the reader nor the protaganist, know who did the dastardly deed. The plot is how we find out who did it. Plots are really a matter of cause and effect."

"I get it," Larry said, "like in physics for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

"That's it. Let's leave it like this; plot is the things your characters do, feel, or say that make a difference to what follows the cause."

"Thanks, I'll see what I can do about coming up with a basic plot for my novel."

"Do that, then we can discuss how to utilize scenes to bring the plot to life."