Thursday, October 28, 2010


The common complaint is that the novel is dead. Don't believe it. Every day new novels dominate review pages, blogs and web sites.
At the same time, there is lots of noise about the death of "plot". Young writers, some critics maintain, don't employ the use of "plot" today. My feeling is that like a lot of dogma, this isn't accurate, either. I think that most readers and writers (especially) are really not sure exactly what "plot" is and how it differs from "story".
It is possible to have a story, that is, a narrative of events that proceeds throughout the book, describing what happens next and then next,without employing a plot. Narrative is the who, what, when, how. Someone once gave the meaning of "story", one that gives you
a sequence of events, as the following: the king died, then the queen died, then the prince died. That can certainly be a good tale, but to make it great, there must be "plot", the "why" behind all these events. Plot is what gives a story meaning and conveys to the reader that deep satisfaction of discovering why she married a dork, why he killed his mother, why friends and lovers betrayed them. And that is why plot will never disappear from fiction (which isn't going to disappear, either.)
We readers will always want to know why. Shakespeare showed us the "why" of Hamlet's family tragedy and created a masterpiece by doing so.
Barbara Phillips

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