Jasmine's pond of dreams

Jasmine's pond of dreams

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What do plot points plot? Storyteller's Log 12-5-2012


DISCLAIMER: I am presenting parody of story writing books that I've read to make a point. While it's meant in good fun, I don't want to diminish the fact that there is great information in these books which have informed my owning thinking on the subject. My advice, read them all.

Before we get to plot points, I wish to explore plots. Here's what Apple's Dictionary has to say on the subject of plots.

plot |plät|nouna plan made in secret by a group of people to do something illegal or harmful: [ with infinitive ] :there's a plot to overthrow the government.the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.a small piece of ground marked out for a purpose such as building or gardening: a vegetable plot.a graph showing the relation between two variables.• a diagram, chart, or map.verb ( plots, plotting plotted with obj. ]secretly make plans to carry out (an illegal or harmful action): the two men are serving sentences for plotting a bomb campaign | [ no obj. ] Erica has been plotting againstme all along.devise the sequence of events in (a play, novel, movie, or similar work).mark (a route or position) on a chart: he started to plot lines of ancient sites.• mark out or allocate (points) on a graph.• make (a curve) by marking out a number of such points.• illustrate by use of a graph: it is possible to plot fairly closely the rate at which recruitment of girls increased.PHRASESlose the plot informal lose one's ability to understand or cope with what is happening: many people believe that he is feeling the strain or has lost the plot.the plot thickens see thicken.
What parts of this apply to story writing? I believe they all do but in different ways. Obviously, number 2 is the most common usage of plot- the main events of a play, novel or movie. The first could be considered an example of one type of plot- a group making secret plans.
The last two, 3 and 4 are interesting for their application to story structure. What do plot points actually plot?

This is where I have problems with plot point theories of story. What do plot points plot? They've left off the last two aspects of the definition of plotting as a verb. They don't mark out points on a graph, they don't make a curve from the points and they don't illustrate anything. They don't show me my story's structure.

In the last post, we saw that Aristotle tried to make a plot by graphing time along the x axis and audience involvement along the y axis. But we also saw that this had limited usefulness, mainly as to help pacing.

"What if we plot something else?"

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Bunny. The problem as it exists is that each of the plot point theories followed Aristotle's rut of plotting audience involvement. Each author of the plot point theories tried to differentiate themselves by how many plot points they chose and what they called each point.

Let's look at some of these theories. (Without naming names)

One has five points.

Another one has nine points.

One might have twelve.

Why not go for fifteen?

Why stop there?

Help, I can't stop!

It's all going dark...

There is even one version that has 120 points, one for each page!

But how big is a plot point? They don't say. Does it matter? Do they come in different colors?

How to you get from one plot point to another? Jump? Careful Bunny. 

This is my problem with the plot point theories. They don't clearly show how they relate to one another.    They are too abstract to show a relationship between them. So this still leaves me lost in Act Two. How can I see if something belongs in it or not?

One theorist suggests that the plot point are like a suspension bridge taking you from the beginning to the ending. Again, like Aristotle who told us that stories have a beginning, middle and end, this is someone with a keen sense of the obvious but not really helpful to me as a writer.

There's one theory that suggests arranging them strung out on a clothes line. Interesting metaphor but it still doesn't differentiate the difference between the socks and underwear from the shirts. That reminds me, I have to go do my wash.

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