Friday, April 11, 2014

The Plotland Swamps

Last week I complained about being Lost in Plotland.  This week's contribution relates to the thrashing about that continues as I plunge ever deeper into the swamp of misdirected plots.  The more I try to untangle the vines of confusion, the tighter they seem to embrace the characters.  Soon, if I do not figure some means of extricating them, they will become one with the rigid trees, not only unable to change, but unwilling to do so.  Already their feet are immersed in the plodding mud, straining to take each slow step forward.  Instead of moving the plot along they talk about the surrounding morass, chatter of past experiences, go on and on about relationships, and complain of how miserable they are to have come so far from the bright path they set upon at the Introduction.

"Blah, blah, blah," they say, filling pages with empty dialogue that does not advance either the main plot nor even advance this byway in the slightest.  "This should not be," the writer screams.  "I have set them on their quest, established the POV characters, and had them encounter the first of three setbacks. Why is this story wandering so far from my three part construction?  Why is this story NOT bending to my will?"

Since I began writing fiction (to escape from the more technical stuff that actually paid decent money) I have taken an engineer's approach to crafting the story's structure, detailing the parameters of each (necessary) scene, describing characters in fuller detail than will ever appear in the final version,  and of course doing the research so the story will seem "real" to the reader. I will shamefully  admit to using verisimilitude where accuracy wouldn't work.  So far my scientific approach to writing has allowed me to write hundreds of stories, a few of which I've sold.

But back to the point of this rambling, so like my cloudy story:  Could it be that my writerly mind is  rebelling against the way I work?  Could it be that by forcing a structure on the first draft, of trying to bend the plot to my will, of trying to make the characters behave, my brain is telling me to let the story go where it will? Is it insisting that writing without an outline, without a known plot, without determining where the story will go is how I should proceed?

That seems an anathema, insane, and extremely risky. Dare I let loose, write without forethought, babble on and on with little sense of purpose?  Others tell me this works, but I have only their word for it. I suspect in my heart of hearts that they, like me, struggle endlessly to keep their stories under control and feign to admit it. Yet, yet there is the chance that such a radical departure might be worth the risk. All I have to lose is this sorry draft that remains mired in the swamp of confusion.

Do I dare?


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