Friday, August 05, 2011

Plot: In Praise Of Lack Of Same

Every now and then I make an attempt to do what's known in Writer World as researching markets, though it's probably just an excuse to read instead of write. This explains why I just read an essay called Plotting Against Plot at AGNIonline. The author, Vincent Czyz, finds he "gravitate(s) toward work that’s been praised for its strong language and striking imagery while generally being chided for its weak storyline." He believes, though, that editors and agents prefer manuscripts with "sufficient narrative momentum."

Among the books he says have lingered with him, though he thinks they're weak on plot, are Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Oddly enough, I remember liking Heart of Darkness when I was in college, but only because of the professor's lectures. And I have to say, not much about the book has lingered with me. From things I've picked up here and there over the years, I've gotten the impression that it's not a wildly popular book with readers. And while I thought at the time I was reading To the Lighthouse that I got it, that I felt it was about regret or acceptance, I also thought Woolf's writing style, which went beyond its weak plot, made readers have to work unnecessarily hard. (On a totally unrelated note, I read it at the same time one of my sons had to read it for high school AP English, and I thought it was a terrible choice for that kind of class. It feels very much like a middle aged person's book.)

While I still prefer books maintain a balance among all their elements, with neither plot nor characterization getting an upper hand, I do find the essayist's point to be interesting.

Also, I noticed that he seems to use "plot" and "story" interchangeably. That's something I've thought about a great deal. I don't think I would do that, though I'm not sure exactly I would differentiate the two.

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