14 April 2009

Plot or No Plot

I recently perused the stacks for reading material with several writer friends. One of them picked up a book and exclaimed, "Does it have a plot? I'm not reading one more book without a plot!"

When I first started teaching plot to writers more than six years ago and then writing about plot extensively, plot was little talked about. I remember searching for plot in the index of several of the most popular writing books at the time and only one had even a page dedicated to the subject. 

Now, the taboo has been lifted and plot seems to be the "it" element most discussed in writing circles. 

And then there is literary fiction....

As much as I appreciate the need for plot and the struggle writers face in creating compelling and multi-layered plots, I love plotless books. I love when the language takes center stage and characters who develop without much dramatic action dominate. 

Literary fiction is essentially plotless and yet all of my favorite books and the ones I remember the most fall in that category. 

Sometimes I worry I've gone too far in my zeal to support writers in creating well-rounded stories with exciting action that transforms the protagonist and in the end means something. 

Plot is well and good, but often no plot is sublime....