28 September 2009

Plot, Plot, Plot

I probably achieve utter absurdity with my new Strange Horizons column, "A Story About Plot", wherein, like an awkward and amateur trapeze artist who has decided the key to success is to not believe in gravity, I try to link John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Aristotle, Shklovsky, and Peter Straub. The whole thing is, I expect, more a sign of my inevitable insanity than anything else.

2 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I get your distinction between storyline and plot. We are always able to draw arbitrary semantic distinctions, but they may be distinctions without a difference. Whatever you want to call it, there are so many more "things happening" in a bestseller by Grisham, Connelly, John Twelve Hawks, Dan Brown, what have you, than in a more "literary" book. If you count "things happening" as "things happening in the narrator's head" too, then Marcel Proust may be seen as tightly plotted.

    So many "literary" works have little to no plot. Updike's RABBIT, RUN has verbose description of the narrator endlessly driving for what, over 100 pages? Same with David Gates' JERNIGAN. Elizabeth Hand's GENERATION LOSS has the narrator's decades-long sex and drug lifestyle summarized in the first few pages before it hits a brick wall of endless description of taking a trip to some small Northeastern island. The difference between these kinds of books is so obvious and THERE.

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  2. I get the distinction between story and plot - story is what happened, plot is how you tell it.

    However, I think plot is built of conflict. Stuff happening or being described is not plot (or is weak plot).

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