Authorguy's Blog

Plotless writing

Posted on: November 1, 2010


I can’t say I recommend it.  I did it once, and hopefully I’ll never have to do it again. 

St. Martin’s Moon began as a mystery/horror story.  Actually, it didn’t.  It began as a gleam in its author’s eye, when he (that is, I) came across a book on a shelf in a used book store named Blood Moon.  I had the idea for a werewolf novel set after an attack on a lunar colony right then, and realized that I should write it shortly afterward.  The original novel was a mystery novel, about some murders on a Russian lunar base, if I recall correctly.  That’s probably what started me thinking about it as a mystery, and as for the horror, it’s werewolves, hellooooo!  The original first line for the story was pretty downbeat, too.

  “Joseph Marquand hated turnover.” 

 That’s the point in a spaceship’s journey where it has to turn around and start decelerating as it approaches its destination.  I didn’t want to start on a downer note, so I changed it deliberately to something happier. 

“Joseph Marquand loved to fly.”

In fact the whole first paragraph became upbeat.  And I was doomed.  Mystery novels are not usually upbeat, horror novels rather less so.  Here the only thing that was downbeat was Marquand himself, and it took me a few pages to find out why.  Marquand’s lover died on the Moon years before, and he really didn’t want to go back.  Can’t say I blame him.  The story had morphed from a mystery/horror to a paranormal, a futuristic paranormal at that.  Still not a bad thing.  Marquand can kill the werewolf, lay a few ghosts to rest, and etc. 

Well, yeah, and then Candace showed up.  So now the story has morphed again from a paranormal to a paranormal romance.  Now there’s a problem.  Actually, there was a problem before but it’s more of a problem now.  As a futuristic paranormal I’m looking for a reason why silver kills werewolves, a scientific reason, and there are a few around.  Now that it’s a paranormal romance, I’m looking for an HEA, a ‘Happily Ever After’ for those of you who don’t read romance blogs.

At this point all vestiges of plot go out the window, uh, airlock.  My theme is gone, the genre has shifted, the style is diffeent, and the endpoint of my story is no more.  It has ceased to be.  It has rung up the curtain and…I’m sure you get the idea.

So, for a very long time, I followed my characters around.  I liked both Marquand and Candace and I wanted to see where they’d go.  It wasn’t much but it was all I had.  I created other characters because I needed them and they fit certain roles, but beyond that, nothing.  I created other characters because I thought of brilliant twists that called for them or because I met certain people, or both.  The only common thread was Marquand, still trying to resolve the werewolf attack, the only remnant of a plot I had left, but even then I knew it would never take me to the end of the book.  The other characters were seen in light of that, his actions and even just his very presence.  Then these characters started doing things too.

I don’t think this is what is meant by the phrase ‘character driven.’  I even created a term for it, a Catalyst novel, where other characters are catalyzed into motion by the presence of the protaganist.  Things happen because he’s there but are not intended or caused by him.  Not a powder keg, but similar.  Not an explosion but an implosion, as all my characters found themselves working at cross-purposes.

My ‘plot’ was a tapestry of little actions, performed by little characters, with no notion of a greater purpose.  I was able to find a greater purpose, alter, and thank god for word processors.  Even to this day I still find things to add or change, even in the third edit.

So like I said, I don’t recommend it.  Any other story-telling apocalypses out there?

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Author Guy’s Tweets

  • @bpcooper I appreciate the movie, Mr. Cooper. I do for others what I hope others would do for me, if they thought my work was worth it. 2 days ago
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