Plot vs story. What's the difference? - Page 2


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Thread: Plot vs story. What's the difference?

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    I'd still put plausibility in the 'story' box almost every time (except for those instances where the plot directly contradicts historical fact, unless there's a good reason for those 'facts' to be ignored -- as with alternative history novels). Without the breaking of 'universal' laws, most science fiction would not exist. For instance, there's no way to travel faster than light without violating the laws of physics. Even wormholes and Tacyon drives, though mathematically possible, still create problems that slam head-on into physics, but that hasn't stopped writers from using FTL drives for decades.

    The plot of Armageddon is a comet on a collision course with Earth and what to do about it. That's a good plot -- it's actually going to happen someday. The story they told around that plot is what sucked. Since the plot of The Day After Tomorrow hinged on the rapidity of the climate change, I'd agree that one is a plot issue. Plot issues do happen. I'm not trying to say every plot can be saved by a good story, but I think it's far easier to save a questionable plot idea with some terrific story-telling than it is for a terrific plot to overcome a bad execution.
    Alright, but I'm not talking about science fiction. I agree, laws of the universe get bent, if not broken, in science fiction.

    So if we limit it to mystery, romance or even the normal part of a fantasy (where one steps through a portal of some kind to enter the fantasy world), shouldn't friction still cause a car wheel to slow and stop? Or a frozen turkey outside in the snow and ice remains frozen? Aren't those kinds of deviations plot holes, and not story issues?

    Sorry! Just read your second paragraph. I think we agree.

  2. #12
    Plot is like meat and potatoes, story is the spice and flavour. Spice on its own cannot sustain you, however no one enjoys food or a story without flavour.
    K.S. Crooks- Dreamer and Author

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by K.S. Crooks View Post
    Plot is like meat and potatoes, story is the spice and flavour. Spice on its own cannot sustain you, however no one enjoys food or a story without flavour.
    Hello K.S,

    I don't think anybody was denying the existence or importance of plot in a well-rounded story. The issue is whether one should be actively thinking about the plot while in the process of writing. I don't think your dinner analogy works for that, unless you were just making a general point.

    Terry isn't the first to make this point, and it is true enough from a practical standpoint - though surprisingly few seem to take it on board. The plot is a natural byproduct of good characters + situation. It does not need focus.

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Blackstone View Post
    Hello K.S,

    I don't think anybody was denying the existence or importance of plot in a well-rounded story. The issue is whether one should be actively thinking about the plot while in the process of writing. I don't think your dinner analogy works for that, unless you were just making a general point.

    Terry isn't the first to make this point, and it is true enough from a practical standpoint - though surprisingly few seem to take it on board. The plot is a natural byproduct of good characters + situation. It does not need focus.
    I think K.S.Crooks was making a general point. As he generally only posts once a month, we may never know for sure.

    I disagree that the plot is a natural byproduct of good characters + situation. Sometimes it flows well, but not always. And sometimes the author can have a goal in mind, making plotting more necessary. Still other times good characters + situation yields a rather anemic scene, that doesn't flow into a story.

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of all trades View Post
    I disagree that the plot is a natural byproduct of good characters + situation. Sometimes it flows well, but not always. And sometimes the author can have a goal in mind, making plotting more necessary. Still other times good characters + situation yields a rather anemic scene, that doesn't flow into a story.
    No doubt there are plenty of writers around who plot. I do not doubt that, and people can work how they wish of course.

    The question for me is more is it ever absolutely necessary or is it just that writers preferred method or the one they feel most comfortable with out of habit or training? I mean, are there any works one could not point to and say “formulating these characters + this setting + this general problem/conflict/idea would have been sufficient to create this exact plotline simply by combining these pieces and seeing what happened? Is there any existing book whose plot could not have come about without plotting?

    I am open minded on the question. I can only really speak for myself and I have never found if necessary to plot my work or to even think about it until the editing phase. Ironically some of my stories have received praise along the lines of “clever plot twist that I didn’t see coming” and it always makes me smile because usually I have put almost no thought into that stuff. On the other hand I’ll spend hours on carefully researching and describing a famous cathedral or the type of boots worn by 17th century cavaliers or on polishing some minor characters backstory and it’s for nought. Such is life.

    Of the novels I have written all of them started with pretty much a singular figment: A kind of picture in my head. Often it became a major character, sometimes an object, a couple times it was a place and once or twice a real life source of conflict/concern from a news article. I added what was needed piece by piece and tool great care, but the actual Plot came last always and was never really a conscious thing.

    For the most part it’s kind of a case of tangling my characters in a web of a sticky situation and then watching them try to fight free. There’s often only one way I can conjure for that to happen - usually anyway - and that is what eventually becomes my “plot”. If something clever happens I am as surprised as anybody. This is what I mean by plot as byproduct. Again, really interested to hear other methods especially if they come with examples.

    Thank you sir.
    Last edited by Blackstone; April 3rd, 2018 at 09:02 AM.

  6. #16
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    Blimey. Is there a difference? Is it an important one? I figure that as long as I make my writing: a. as compelling as I can; and b. hold together narratively, then I try not to worry about the differences too much other than as talking points.


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  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Blackstone View Post
    No doubt there are plenty of writers around who plot. I do not doubt that, and people can work how they wish of course.

    The question for me is more is it ever absolutely necessary or is it just that writers preferred method or the one they feel most comfortable with out of habit or training?
    Every writer works differently, to varying degrees. I'd say that if plotting is one writer's preferred method, then it's certainly necessary to them.

    J.K. Rowling, for example, famously scrawled out all the plot points to her Harry Potter series in a messy outline that I, personally, can't make heads or tails from. But to her it was a much-needed roadmap, one that guided her to becoming the world's first billionaire author.

    Rowling Plot.jpg

    Contrast her with Nora Roberts, who has said many times that she simply starts with interesting characters in mind (and a vague idea of how she wants things to end up). Then she just sits down and lets her fingers fly over the keys. For her, that's the only pre-thought she's needed to churn out all her books. (I believe she's approaching 300 novels at this point, including the 40+ novels she's written under her alias, J.D. Robb.)

    But what works for Rowling certainly wouldn't work for Roberts (and vice versa)—which I believe is the main takeaway to focus on: what works for one writer probably won't work for another. We all have to find our own unique approach.

    (My approach, lately, has been to grip my hair and groan, and mash the keyboard in frustration until something makes me tilt my head and say, "Huh! Well, that's actually not half bad ..." Then rinse and repeat. )
    Last edited by Kyle R; April 3rd, 2018 at 04:55 PM.

  8. #18
    I think the need to pre-plan the plot is probably at least somewhat genre-based. I'm fine winging it with a romance, but if I were writing a murder mystery I'd want a tighter structure from the start.

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayview View Post
    I think the need to pre-plan the plot is probably at least somewhat genre-based. I'm fine winging it with a romance, but if I were writing a murder mystery I'd want a tighter structure from the start.
    That's interesting, because I write mysteries and typically wing it. I usually know the crime and have a vague idea of who I think did it, but sometimes change my mind somewhere in the middle.

    But I have written some crap that went nowhere, too. So it doesn't always flow naturally.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of all trades View Post
    That's interesting, because I write mysteries and typically wing it. I usually know the crime and have a vague idea of who I think did it, but sometimes change my mind somewhere in the middle.

    But I have written some crap that went nowhere, too. So it doesn't always flow naturally.

    Do you have to go back and do a lot of rewrites in order to fit in clues for your readers to pick up on?

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