I don’t write great plots. I mean, they work fine and sometimes I’ll pull off a sweet ending or twist, but if a guy busted in Chandler-style and pointed a gun at me and demanded to know my literary secrets, I’d give it up that plot isn’t what I do best or sweat most. Last year my “Aix to Grind” (AHMM, September 2014) centered around an art heist in Provence. Okay, writers have been writing that one since art met Provence. Exhibit B? One paragraph into this post and already a guy has burst in with a gun.
If that guy forced me to spill a literary nugget, it’d be this: in a fair fight character beats plot. Beats it but good. Plots are constructs the author sells the reader. Characters? They are just like our aunts, co-workers, overinvolved neighbor, the weird dude that time at the McDonalds. They are us.
Take the racks of new cozies out every month. Sure, they bring a clever whodunit, but are readers flocking to them for that or the whosolvedit? The cozies I’ve enjoyed most are at their core great big booster shots of character. Often it’s hard for me to remember the killer, but the main character comes right back to mind. Same goes for established authors well into a series–are they developing their plots or their character’s lives–and for sure in literary fiction. Lit fiction is about character shifts, not art heists.
Yep, character. What sold my heist story wasn’t art or Provence. A certain famous director went there sixty years ago. I mean, it’s a smart bet there are cave drawings in Provence about heists of other Provence cave drawings. No, my Continue reading No Question of Character
I’m delighted to have a guest post over at The First Two Pages, a blog run by writer extraordinaire B.K. Stevens. Every week a novelist or story writer takes apart an opening they find instructive: the fits and starts of crafting it, how the hook became sharp, etc. In my case, I’ve taken apart the opening of my romp “Two Bad Hamiltons and a Hirsute Jackson,” recently in AHMM, and I go through how with short fiction two pages can be the entire set-up and beyond. It was years in finding what ultimately worked.
Go check it out if you liked Vi’s story or find the idea intriguing. And if you click over there, check out the many great other self-analyses of writer’s journey to finished product.
Thanks for having me over, Bonnie!
It was my great honor last night to talk fiction with the wonderful Sherry Welton Wilds as she debuts her new show The Method and the Muse. What a great (and short!) session, and I hope those who listen get value for their time.
If I remember correctly, and this would be a new development, here’s some elaboration and errata:
– Sherry mentioned “First Rodeo,” published not so long ago at Kings River Life. I get more into the story and character here.
– I read from an oldie but goodie “Dark Days for the Professor.” I get more into the story here. And here’s the bit about deleting all those early words.
– My bit about setting up a story as akin to dealing the cards was paraphrased from an Ann Patchett talk. The image nails how to open directly or through foreshadowing when storytelling.
– I was asked about Poe’s Unity of Effect. It’s a thing, y’all.
– And remember, short stories get read in one sitting. They are Ending Delivery Systems, with the various elements building to deliver the Resonant Moment.
– Yes, I am all about Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.