Monday, June 6, 2011

Organic Development of Plot

Call me crazy, and some of you might just do that, but I like it when a story unfolds before me "organically." That is to say, that the tale snowballs and develops over time. This is not to imply that I don't like a good old "drop in the meat grinder" beginning. (They call this "In Media Res," by the way; and if you want a good example of In Media Res, look at the opening of "Star Wars Episode IV -- A New Hope." [If you're old, like me, you know it simply as "Star Wars"--before all that prequel crap.])

My point is this: I'd had it mentioned to me that my stories develop slow and then build up. This is quite intentional. Like I said, I like organic development. I can see where this could be annoying--having to wait for things to get going--people like immediate satisfaction and my stories take that lingering moment to build.
Here's an example of the thing I'm talking about: I was reading Dracula last night (yeah, really) and good ol' Stoker does the same thing--taking the time out to introduce a character, build some suspense, and make you think that Dracula isn't all that bad. Yet Stoker's writing leaves lingering thoughts as to what the heck is the deal with all the townsfolk crossing themselves? And why is Harker locked in his wing of that decrepit old castle? Why all the baloney drama? What's the deal with the Count disappearing at dawn? 

In other words: what the heck is the deal, yo?

Of course, we know that Dracula is pretty evil--such is our history with the character--but imagine when the book first was published, this all would have been brand new stuff. The rest, they say, is literary history. Now you probably cannot swing a Barnes & Noble book bag without hitting a novel that in some way owes a deep level of respect and credit to Dracula and Stoker.

Organic: it's not just about plants; it's how writers get things done. It might be currently out of fashion in the age of click-a-button-and-your-electronic-transfer-is-complete, but it certainly not old fashioned. It's traditional; it's what writers, if they think about it, are really trying to aspire toward.

Find me an author that wouldn't trade a leg for the fame, influence, and respect that Stoker has, and I will show you a fool who happens to write. I, for one, would make that trade in a heartbeat.

So, yeah, I try to develop things slowly; but once I get going, I hope making the reader wait was worth it. I just hope I don't make it boring--which is the worst kind of insult a writer can make to a reader. I don't aspire towards boring, and no writer ever should. There is that fine-line between building suspense and taking thirty pages to describe a mushroom. (Or, "Tolkien, let's get this wagon-train a-rollin'!) [Not that I am disparaging J.R.R. Tolkien--that would be foolish: his addition to the fantasy genre is immeasurable. What I'm saying is there was room there and he took all of it even though he really didn't need to.]

For me, I think, it's all about moving forward; but doing so in all good and proper time. Take the time to tell the tale--leave the meat grinder for when it's really appropriate.

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