Monday, May 9, 2011

The Plotless Novel

How many of you have ever written a plotless novel?  Come on raise your hands, don't be shy  I can't actually see you.  My hand is in the air.  While I think I've learned a lot since then it's not bad to remind myself what a plot is.  I came across an interesting post about plotting over at The Intern.  She states that a plot plot needs a combination of these things; Cause and effect, interrelatedness, and extended conflict.

Checking your manuscript for these three things is a fabulous way to know if you have a plot. What happens in the early parts of the book have to have an effect on the later parts otherwise it was pointless.  Which goes right along with interrelatedness.  If the whole of your book isn't connected (each event effecting and defining the later ones) you have a series of events, not a plot.  Extended conflict, I see a lot of new writers that have a problem with this.  The conflict and tension have to over set the WHOLE novel.  It should start at the point where something changes and end at the point where that change is resolved.

The intern also said this "Suffice to say that a plot generally involves a series of conscious decisions on the author’s part"  I want to add it also includes conscious decisions on the character's part.  There is no plot if things just keep happening to your character and she sits there and does nothing.  At least not an interesting plot.

So how about it?  Any words you want to share on plot?


  1. Stephen King says much the same thing. In fact, he advocates not thinking "plot" at all, but story and only story. When you think about it, the interrelatedness of the whole is story. Without it, you have a string of disjointed parts. Good post!

  2. Great comment. I think it does help to think of it as story as opposed to the clinical and intimidating PLOT.

  3. I like what you say about the conscious decisions. That's something that I didn't pay attention too in my early work. I was fascinated by characters that were sort of paralyzed by their situation. While I still think this is interesting, I try harder to set up the circumstances so that these paralyzed characters HAVE to make decisions and act. It's a lot more fun to read when I do that!

  4. There is something interesting about a character paralyzed by their situation, and I believe more novels than we think use that. But at some point they have to act. If there are no decisions, no sacrifice, there is no growth, and don't we all want our characters to grow?

  5. I find my characters will naturally fall into events, even when I think I'm struggling. But I just wrote my synopsis a couple of days ago and now I'm really worried. Where's my romance arc?

  6. Hey a synopsis! I need to do one of those but am terrified. Of course I'm also thinking of completely redoing the first four chapters, again.

  7. I'm pretty late to the game, but [raises hand enthusiastically] me me me! Plotless is my middle name!

    I seem to have resolved that with my current WIP, though. But I had a 70,000+ word fanfic (that was only half done!) collapse on itself because I'd plotted (or, not-plotted?) myself into a deep dark hole.

    Do you find this is something you get better at with experience or is it one of those 'you've got it or you don't' things?

  8. Comments are welcome anytime.

    I definitely think a person can improve at plotting. (if only I could improve at spelling) That is maybe why most authors write several books before writing one that is publishable.

    I think as a person writes and reads more they get a better understanding of what is needed. And there are lots of books about plotting and writing. I've been reading some and it helps me to recognize the tools as authors use them so I can apply them to my own work.