My Favorite Plot

10,000 words. That’s how much I’ve written in the last week. That’s more than I’ve written in three years, especially for fiction. 5k of those words were in a previous project that I abandoned on Friday. The other 5k is my work on a new project. Why the shift? Because the first had no plot, and on Friday, after some study, I found a plot I can write to.

I’ve written before about how I suffer when trying to outline. I just rework and rework and rework that outline until the story is nice and boring and stale. Then I try to write that sterilized piece of shit. Yeah, it doesn’t work, not for me.

Last week, while reading some old pulp fiction, I stumbled upon a book that was a collection of articles by old pulp writers. I won’t link the book, because it was rather misleading –– it billed itself as a book about how to write like the pulps, but only had a collection of relevant articles by old pulp writers (thanks, but I could have done the research myself).

In that book (one of the articles, to be precise), I discovered a plot, my favorite plot. This plot doesn’t require an outline, complicated plot point charts, or excessive character studies. It only requires that I keep it in mind while writing. And not just where I’m at on the plot. It’s so concise, so complete, that I can focus on the entire plot at every stage of my writing, and it’s relevant at each of those stages.

Here it is:

an APPEALING CHARACTER strives against GREAT ODDS to attain a WORTHWHILE GOAL

The author attributed the plot to one of their unnamed editors, so I can’t attribute it.

When I started writing again last week, I had no idea what I was doing. I had a character in a setting and started writing. The whole thing got away from me in pretty short order.

But after discovering this, I knew I could restart, with a different story (to keep it fresh) and get a story done. At every stage, every scene, I try to make my characters appealing (relatable yet interesting). I remember the odds they’re up against and be sure to build up to bigger and bigger confrontations with them. And I’m always reminded of the worthwhile goal. In fact, I have more than one in this story. There’s the big one (stop the bad guy before he does a bad thing) but then each character has a little goal their working on, or co-working on, throughout the story.

This is the first time I’ve encountered a plot that I can think about at every moment of writing, keep it in mind constantly, and it doesn’t bog things down. And since I haven’t actually put scenes to the “plot points” of it, the story is still fresh as I write.

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