Monday, March 7, 2016

Where's the plot?

Sometimes I write short stories and I submit them to places and then they get rejected because they don't have much action.

Basically, I frequently write stories that essentially have no plot.

I think this is partly because what I (and many other people!) enjoy about fiction has little to do with plot; I tune in for characters and concept and atmosphere, and whether the characters do much of anything takes a back seat behind whether I like who they are and enjoy watching them interact with their environment and each other. I recognize that of course stories have to go somewhere, but I've so often gotten turned off by what the stories become when they are dragged to a climax by their plot coupon that I guess I've sometimes opted to write stories that go nowhere instead of making them go somewhere that doesn't matter.

I think I need to do better than that.

Recently I came up with an idea for a short story and I was definitely itching to write it right away. It happened during a really busy week and I was mentally combing through my schedule wondering if I'd be able to steal a couple hours to write it down. And then I decided not to.

Because it doesn't have a plot.

It's just a concept, and it will make an interesting snapshot of some people while making a statement about human nature and all that adorable literary stuff, but I actually have no idea what they are going to do. I know who they are. I know what their past is. I know the point I want to make (though I think one of the characters has something else to show me once I get into it). But I don't know what they will be trying to do.

Maybe I'll figure something out. Maybe I'll deliberately make a gimmick out of their situation so I can take potshots at the need for plot, I don't know. 

Haven't decided if I want it to be in first person or third. (Leaning toward third, so I won't fall into the trap of too much introspection.) Haven't decided if I want it to be in past tense or present. (I think I'll just make that choice when I sit down to write it.) I don't know what any of the characters' names are. And I don't know quite where the story starts or how it ends.

Weirdly, even though it's not a story about stories, I think it will say something about why we tell them.

Maybe I'll wait for the plot to bite me. 

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