Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I'm trying to (finally) re-start the website, so I thought maybe I'd start up the blog too. (Pause for cheers. Pause. Pause.... Cheers, please?)

Have recently been interested in looking for ways to braid the internal or interactional plots into the external plot (or reverse).
Plot (an important sequence of events and changes that starts very early in the story and ends late in the story, that is, not a subplot, which will start later and probably resolve earlier and be less than central).
Most common main types of plots:
  1. Internal plot (how the main character changes or confronts some emotional/psychological/life issue during the story)
  2. Interactional plot (how the main character's relationship- including possibly romance- with another character or group-- like family-- changes in the course of the story)
  3. External plot (how the main character-s confront and resolve or fail to resolve some external problem in the course of the story)

Not all stories have all three of these plots, and some stories will relegate one or two of them to "subplot status (like when the protagonist frees the hostages, and along the way, decides he will go ahead and attend the family Thanksgiving after all).

But if we have two of these or all three, we generally "braid" them in some way so that the reader can experience them together, if not in every scene, then in most scenes. In that way, the events of one plot affect the next event of another plot. Example: She's about to leave for the airport when her mom calls and begs her to come home for Thanksgiving, that Dad promises to behave and not bring up the past this time. She is upset by this and misses her plane, and when it leaves without her, she realizes that her luggage is on it, including the jewelry she was supposed to deliver to Mr. Big.

Etc. That is, each plot affects the other in some way-- not just once, but over and over in the story. This should be not like parallel train tracks, but more like a braid, then.

The plots don't run parallel to each other, but are braided, intersecting in almost every scene.

An example I just saw was in Granite Flats, an absurdly fun mystery series set in 1962, where three pre-teens solve mysteries (including big international spy dramas) while negotiating early adolescence.

Both of the boys are sort of in pre-teen love with the girl Madeline. But she finds herself liking Tim. In one scene, for mystery-plot reasons, she and Tim trick the bank into giving them access to a safe-deposit box (where they find something significant-- you can tell which plot intrigues me the most, as I recall every glance between them, but not the point of the external mystery).
Their parents find out about this deception, and (correctly) assume neither would have done this alone-- that it's the pairing of the two kids which lead them into bank robbery.
So in the next scene, the parents ban them from seeing each other (much misery ensues, including Romeo and Juliet references-- they're studying that in English class).

So the external event of finding the clue in the safe deposit box leads to an interactional consequence -- their incipient romance is stifled (though of course, in the way of teen romance everywhere, restriction only makes the love more intense... so good!).
The cause-and-effect keeps going on-- because they aren't allowed to speak, their little detective agency goes defunct (and all of this has an effect on Arthur, the other member of their trio). So they cannot pursue the implications of this clue they just found.

What are some more examples of scenes or scene sequences where two (or three) of the plots intersect and cause changes in both? This is such a good technique for making your plot individual (it's not just another mystery, but also a love story), and also for pulling the reader along.



Stephen Kozeniewski said...


Adrian said...

Hip Hip Hooray!

Deb Salisbury said...

Yay! I'm glad you're back. :-)

stanalei said...

Welcome back! And Granite Flats is one of my all-time favorite shows. It's fun to see another fan!

Edittorrent said...

Thanks, all! My email just got hacked, and the lovely hacker enrolled me in 12,000 (I'm not exaggerating) newsletters, so I will be unsubbing for the rest of the year... but will try to blog also. I certainly have plenty of material now that I am getting newsletters from Russian motorcycle gangs and My Little Pony lovers and Mount Bethel Brethren Church.


Carman Curton said...

So happy to have discovered you just as you're beginning this blog! Sorry about the hack--but I think there's a novel in the Russian motorcycle gang/My Little Pony combo somewhere.

Also, I teach an editing class at a small college, and I'm about to assign my class to read your blog, so if you can keep it up, you'll have a small, but loyal list of followers.


Edittorrent said...

Thanks, Carman! And if you get any great examples of grammar and editing puzzles from your students, share? I love the knotty problems.

Stanalei, I didn't realize anyone else watched Granite Flats. What a surprise to see Christopher Lloyd in there as a Shakespeare teacher. :)