Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Hunting For Your Story With Plot And The Assistance Of A Dead, White Male

I forgot to mention in my discussions of plot that we can use it to help us find stories. Remember, plot is different from story. A plot is the series of causal events--one leading to another--that make up a story, an account of something that happened to somebody. So if we've been having trouble getting from an idea that is merely a situation (such as a guy riding a stationary bike along with the Tour de France riders, who he is watching on a TV) to an account of something that happened to somebody (I do not know what that would be for the Le Tour stationary bike guy), working to come up with a basic plot is one more thing, like working with characters, setting, point of view, setting, theme, and voice, that can help us make the trip.

Okay, Freytag's Pyramid. What does that have to do with plot? Well, Freytag's Pyramid describes with a nice graphic a basic plot structure. It's the plot that many of us learned about in school. Aristotle's name gets thrown around a bit when discussing writing, and, sure enough, you can find talk of Aristotle's Incline in relation to plot. Aristotle's Incline is sort of a lopsided Freytag's Pyramid. Both plot plans involve action that becomes more and more intense until there is a climactic moment in the story--the bully is defeated! the vampires and werewolves fight! Then the excitement drops off. Both graphics can work, depending on how rapidly you think action should drop after a climax or how much resolution/wrap up you want to do after the climactic moment.

I am particularly fond of  boring, white, dead guy Freytag's Pyramid for one reason and one reason alone. It is simple. There are big sections on Freytag's Pyramid for rising and falling action, but he doesn't go on about doors and steps and when we should be adding what where, which some plotting schemes require. (Yeah, I'm talking about you, Hero's Journey.) Elaborate plot constructions for writers to follow may result in fine books, but for this writer, they are like having to solve a puzzle before I even get started writing. I don't like puzzles.

Notice that Freytag's Pyramid includes an "inciting incident." I've become very interested in inciting incidents, or what I prefer to think of as a "disturbance to the protagonist's world." A post for another weekend.


Alex said...

I had forgotten about Freytag's Pyramid (shame on me, I have a PhD in German Lit, too), so I was happy to be reminded of it.
There is a very funny backstory in the NY Times Book Review section, which you may or may not have seen yet, called The Story Coaster, which is somewhat along the lines of what you are saying today. Here is the link, 358 just in case you need it

Gail Gauthier said...

I knew of the pyramid format for more years than I care to say. The name Freytag is very recent to me. Already I can't remember how I came upon it.