Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Plot Against Plot

The shadowy figure materialized through his swimming vision, canted like a crooked tower over his sprawled form. His boot heels thudded against the floor as he tried feebly to push himself away, but the liquor and amerdol weighed him down and made his limbs leaden. There was no sound except the ragged gasps of his breath as he raised his arms and pushed his knife upward. It cut air, then abruptly shuddered to a halt as its tip entered flesh.

The moment stretched.

Ereas pushed harder, and it was like sawing at burnt meat. Something warm spattered his hands and he had no more strength left. His arms dropped.

Someone shrieked, but it sounded faraway, muffled by the roaring in his ears. He couldn't see through his tears, and his head was filled with thunder. So much amerdol. The weight of the figure crushed down on him as he slid toward the silence.

He thought, What have I done?

What he's done, actually, is made life difficult for himself.

Like me.

I've been plotting. Not to stab someone (though, a couple of frustrated times, the thought did occur to me...), but in the literary sense.

I hate plotting.

Plot, I've discovered, is quite different from "I know what happens in this story". Knowing the story, knowing what I am going to write about... that's easy. Plot is a pain in the ass.

This novel is my first whole-hearted attempt at... ummmm... a novel. To say I've been learning a lot would be fairly silly, I'm sure, but it's true.

Plot has been the toughest.

Recently I read The Blood Knight by Greg Keyes. And honestly I think his Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series is one of the finest-written epic fantasies on the shelves. Keyes is one of those flat-out good writers able to balance clarity with style. But one thing that bothers me about these novels is the convenience of the plotting. In The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, the main characters crisscross the map, yet somehow manage to keep bumping into one another. And perhaps your life is different but I have never, for instance, bumped into one of my former co-workers that moved to New Jersey while we both happen to be vacationing in Paris.

That would be convenient plotting.

In plotting this novel, I find I just can't do it. To me, plotting has to be driven by cause and effect. Ereas, in a drunken and drugged-out stupor, recklessly stabs someone he shouldn't. He's like the rich kid who believes he is untouchable. He's like the board members of Enron, and he's shocked when there are consequences.

But actions and consequences are the lifeblood of plot. The characters do things because of who they are. Those actions have repercussions. When I sit down to plot out the novel, it becomes a game of charting those consequences. It's long. It's tedious. And I hope, eventually, that it is more realistic and believable than having characters bump into each other while crisscrossing the globe.

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