Plot help

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polymath
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Re: Plot help

Post by polymath » October 15th, 2010, 12:31 pm

Bucket list, okay, a self-imposed exercise in writing. I too not too long ago felt like I needed a simple skeletal plot and a story to erect it on for practice. My investigation of plot led me far and wide. I've encountered dozens of definitions of what I at first thought could only be one. In time I came to realize each definition was a small interpretation of a whole. I found there's only one plot shape with an infinite number of expressions.

I study Spanish and can read and write it, but not converse very well in it. My last Spanish language instructor said it was time for me to immerse in a Spanish culture to go the rest of the way. I play harmonica respectably well and read sheet music okay. Can plink at stringed instruments. I've not mastered any but the harmonica, a lifelong musical companion. Not too terribly surprising it's also a solo instrument, portable, convenient, and entertaining even when alone.

My sense of literature's place in the present scheme of things at least superficially is closest narrative distance is its strength over all other entertainment channels. Reading and writing are individual, intimate, personal, one-on-one experiences pursued in solitary settings. Close narrative distance provides readers that experience better than anything else.

I project Will Ryland as a hard-boiled cynical journalist for the purposes of voice and its influence on closing narrative distance. He's someone who alienates his acquaintances and therefore is not very comfortable to be around and not close to too many people. However, because he says and does the things readers wish they could but don't because of social consciousness he builds reader rapport. Him having an agenda against government in general and law enforcement's rush to judgment provide him with a purpose complicated by high magnitude complications. Law enforcement doesn't like him, setting him up for a clash of wills and passions with authority figures. Again, setting him up as someone to be admired for standing up to injustice, albeit a David and Goliath and/or Don Quixote resistance to authority.

It might come as some surprise that a thorough narrative plan begins at the ending as well as the beginning. The final outcome and the payoff. A completed dramatic work, not merely completed with some closure or resolution of a conflict, but an inspirational or thought-provoking transformation of the focal entity, be it character, idea, setting, or event. If circumstances in an opening are favorable, a tragedy is indicated with an unfavorable outcome, perhaps a noble sacrifice. If circumstances are unfavorable in an opening, a comedy is indicated with a favorable outcome. I mean the Aristotlean comedy, not necessarily a humorous farce, where the outcome is favorable. In essence, a whole narrative is one completed turn, reversal, or twist.

'50s era mysteries typically followed a detective's unravelling the who-done-it of a murder. The event was transformed, not much in the way of character transformation or much else. Poetic justice ending, feel good ending, all is right with the world, good is rewarded, evil punished. Comforting in a world of far less certainty. Some emotional payoff, but those kinds of mysteries passed out of favor because they became predictably episodic and formulaic. They lacked character transformation. What I know as static main characters. A dynamic main character experiences a character transformation. In some consensuses, a protagonist not only enters a narrative setting first, the protagonist is also the entity to experience the most transformation.

If Ryland is transformed by events, the emotional payoff is most satisfying. So what ways is he transformed? is a question I asked. He experiences the plot crises. First, an inciting crisis, a news story that favors his agenda. Intermediate rising action, the side he chose to be on comes ahead against a flood tide of complication. Second, a tragic crisis, the side he chose to be on looks unequivocally wrong. A tragic crisis' purpose is to raise doubt of outcome to a peak.

Intermediate falling action, he comes ahead again closing in on his agenda. Third, a final crisis, the final turn (reversal or twist), he discovers the side he chose is unequivocally wrong. But because only he knows, besides the true murderer, and only he can decide to reveal what he knows, he has a crisis of conscience. Reveal what he knows and ruin his career or keep it to himself and suffer in silence, if he has a conscience. For all intents and purposes, the murder is solved anyway for readers' sakes. It was solved at the beginning. But through twists and turns and reversals and setbacks and letdowns reader doubt is raised.

For the strongest emotional payoff, Ryland makes the pivotal decision. He reveals what he knows. Poetic justice is served for the evildoer, but by doing good, Ryland is also punished. No good deed goes unpunished kind of a message, but in a semantical inversion readers are inspired by his noble sacrifice. For a fully-realized outcome, Ryland receives a public validation from his contrite public confession. He reveals the true culprit's undoing in a final news story and finds his career hasn't gone down the tubes. He's increased his prestige and marketplace value .

Thematically for unity's sake, by fighting against law enforcement's rush to judgment, Ryland also rushes to judgment in opposition reaction to it. The lesson he learns that unequivocally, irrevocably transforms him, cooler heads prevail, the true and inspirational underlying message of the novel. But there are no cooler heads until the ending when Ryland takes a moment to think about what he's done to his career. And he turns out to be a good guy after all.

Anyway, a '50s era mystery plot is a good exercise. Mysteries because they have a standard storyline from unravelling who done it are perhaps the simplest to write and fully realize. But they're event priority driven plots. For a contemporary mystery novel to succeed in today's marketplace an added dimension is essential. Character driven plots fit the bill.
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GeeGee55
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Re: Plot help

Post by GeeGee55 » October 20th, 2010, 1:52 am

Mike:

A word about disputes between farmers - they occur on many levels because someone feels that their survival is threatened by the presence of the other. Eg: Some farmers feel that environmentalists threaten their ability to make a living because they want to impose rules (it seems unfairly to the farmer) that directly impact his ability to make money from his land in the way that he chooses. (This is true of many of the situations you and Polymath discussed) Ultimately, the farmer is dependent upon his chosen (or more likely inherited) agricultural pursuit - raising cattle, or sheep, or grain, for everything - what he does daily, what he owns, what he eats, what he can give his family, how he can grow his business. And then there is the family obligation, the sense of history that comes with land owned for generations, the sense of failure if one should lose the land. So, it can all become wonderfully complicated. Good luck with your story.

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