The One-Plot Wonder
Back in the mid to late 1980s I was a security guard. The pay waslousy, but it gave me many hours in seclusion to write shortstories and novels. However, I usually worked over 80 hours aweek. No one can write that much. Well, at least not me. Thus Idiscovered the joys of my local libraries.
Recently, I decided to look up an author who gave me greatpleasure in those days. Most of his books are now out of print,I've learned, even the one that became a movie.
I found that two of his were books available, so I ordered them.One I'd enjoyed before. The other was a straight thriller fromthe days before he created the "Appleton Porter" spy spoofs,re-released in 2001 in POD. I didn't know this before it arrivedat my home in China.
Since I'm giving away THE plot spoiler, I won't identify theauthor or title.
A man who deeply loves his wife buys her a hotel outside London.She is very happy there, at first. This is a fine suspensefulread as she notes oddities and eventually appears to be losingher mind and such. Suicides, an eventual murder. Finally, herhusband pays a doctor to kill her.
Her husband arranged all this, we learn at the end, becauseshe was dying of a horrible and incurable illness. Rather thanlet her suffer the indignity, he tries to give her some finaldays filled with wonderful memories. He never realizes that heended her days with a living hell.
The writing was fine, aside from some stupid typos of the sortcommon in unedited POD titles. He's obviously a sincere,hard-working, talented author. The plot was wholly consistentand everything "worked."
So why is it a weak book? Because the plot I described is allthere is. It's a one-plot wonder.
As an author, if you find yourself floundering, if you find yourwork-in-progress failing to make progress, ask yourself. Is it aone-plot wonder?
Here are some best sellers I've read over the past thirty years.
During the Cold War, a Soviet commander steals a top-secretsubmarine and tries to defect to the US with it. A good andidealistic young law graduate accepts a job too good to be true,only to eventually learn he's working for the Mafia. Analcoholic author and his family become caretakers at an oldMaine hotel, alone during the winter, and he eventually goesnuts. A US President declares war on drug dealers, a "clear andpresent danger" to national security. A crippled author iskidnapped by the ultimate fan.
I've chosen these titles because I've read the books and seenthe movies. None of my plot summaries are wrong. But with someof those novels, there are many more plots and subplots at work.These are the novels that didn't always translate well to thebig screen due to time constraints and/or loss of non-objectivevoice.
I love a well-conceived "what if" scenario, and none of these books lack that. But more importantly, I love a novel that'srich with the fabric of life. That's where multiple plots comeinto play. Very rarely will a movie capture this as well as anovel can.
A one-plot wonder is a boring read. It's a boring write. It's notrealistic. And, it's a hard sell. All your eggs are in onebasket. If the editor isn't enthralled with that sole plot, youaren't published. If the reviewer isn't enthralled with that soleplot, he pans you. If the potential reader isn't enthralled withthat sole plot, he doesn't buy your book. Or if he does, maybeyou don't get any repeat business from him. You don't get mine.
Plus, we should be setting the bar a bit higher for ourselvesanyway. We entertain, but we also enlighten and educate. Or atthe very least, provide needed escape. But it's hard to escape toa one-plot wonder. I keep taking coffee breaks between chapters.
I single out no writing medium with this. All are guilty. Comeon, TERMINATOR 2 has more subplots than many successful booksthese days. And it's not just "these days," incidentally. Thetitle I reviewed early in this article is from 1979. Published,successful, well-written, flat.
Craftsmanship is fine. Craftsmanship is wonderful to behold.Craftsmanship is a necessity. But, it's not enough.
Do you want to build a horse barn that never leaks or do you wantto build a two-story A-frame home that survives five hurricanesundamaged? My carpenter did the latter and I can't do the former.But if I had the ability to build a leak-proof barn, I certainlywouldn't limit myself to barns. I'd try to build houses.
I'm not talking about weighty tomes. Times change, readerschange, and most people don't read them any more. What was onceconsidered gripping is now considered boring.
But one-plot wonders also bore readers. They read it, enjoy itmoderately, then go look for something else to do. There's littlesatisfaction at the end. Rarely the big "wow" that probably madeyou start writing in the first place.
I'm talking about shooting for five stars instead of two orthree. I'm talking about richness of story, raising the standard,writing your absolute best instead of settling for adequate.
I risk oversimplification here, but I'm seeing far too manyone-plot wonders. People are buying them, too. But it's time forus, the authors, to quit writing them.
Copyright 2004, Michael LaRocca
Michael LaRocca's website at http://www.chinarice.org waschosen by WRITER'S DIGEST as one of The 101 Best WebsitesFor Writers in 2001 and 2002. His response was to throw itout and start over again because he's insane. He teachesEnglish at a university in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province,China, and publishes the free weekly newsletter WHO MOVEDMY RICE?
How to Pitch a Story
Ever wonder why we refer to convincing an editor a story is worthy by "pitching a story?" I have. I'm a baseball enthusiast, and it makes a lot of sense to me. When the editor is at bat with you, he or she has a few swings to make before making a connection ? through the story idea (ball) that could end up being a base hit or a home run. Naturally, everyone wants to hit a home run when they go to bat with an editor. Sometimes publicists and writers do have to walk to first base for the story assignment. Here are some helpful tips on how to pitch a story to an editor ? and how to at least hit a single, double, or triple ? if not a home run on occasion.
How to Write Your Op-Ed Piece
Op-ed articles, also known as opinion/editorial articles, are a great way for aspiring writers to publicize their work and, in exchange, receive an amazing amount of publicity for free. You can write an op-ed piece and get it publicized provided you follow these simple rules.
The Psychology Of Effortless Writing
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener
How To Write Your Book Within A Week
Everyone has a book inside them, or so the saying goes. But few people get that book out. Often it's because of lack of time. So, how can you get your book written inside a week or two?
Become the Writer You Always Dreamed of Being
So you want to be a writer, except you don't know where to begin. Heck you can't even think of something to write about let alone how you're going to get paid for writing. Maybe you have gotten over those humps but can't figure out why you're not a successful, awarding winning writer yet. Well, here are several tips to get you through all of those problems and then some.
Get Published: The Nuts and Bolts of English, and How to Impress a Publisher (2)
The tiniest things can be so useful when you come to consider the nuts and bolts of writing. The comma is one of them. No, don't go away: it's a useful device that's often used badly -- or ignored altogether.
A Writers Tools
If you are like most writers, you're constantly searching for tips on technique that will help you to increase your chances of publication. You eagerly pounce on articles that tell you how to plot better, write better and sell better. In addition, you occasionally buy books on writing, or do a writing course, or attend a seminar.
Frequently Asked Questions from Writers
1. What Is A Premise?
You Dont Need Inspiration!
Or do you?
Writing with a Sense of Adventure
We've all been told that we need to use all five senses to bring our fiction to life. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch all need to be invoked. But there's one other sense that also needs to be used: the sense of adventure.
How Three Publishing Myths Kill the Author
Agents and publishing houses have their best interests at heart, not the author's. Save yourself from headaches, disappointments, and money down the drain. Become your own independent publisher and produce your book faster and cheaper. All you need is a little help from professionals.
Hero?s Journey ? The First Threshold
Beyond three and four act story structure, lies the Hero's Journey.
Eight Ways To Write Your Novel Faster
I asked several writers how long it took them to write a novel they wanted published. One woman writer made a frustrated face at me, a couple others just stared at me (their novel wasn't finished yet), and a few just stared.
The journey to having my first novel for children published has been riddled with road blocks and shonky bridges. The good news? At every rickety stage I've picked up tips (and anti-tips) which I'm happy to share with everyone...
Why Book Writers Need A Running Mate
By far, I have found that the lack of discipline is the biggest hindrance for most people, when it comes to writing a book of any kind. Although I urge you as a would-be writer to develop a theme because once you are clear on "why" you want to write a book, your motivational level will shift into a higher gear, I also urge you to get an accountability partner. This person will be the most important asset you can have as a writer.
Write A Better Newsletter!
You've decided to write your very own Newsletter to promote your business, communicate with your customers, or just for FUN.
The Blank Mind
Many writers stare at the blank page or clean computer screen and wait for inspiration with a feeling of hopelessness. That white page or screen is always a struggle to fill, and it probably will always be for most writers.
Are You Feeling Dash-ing? Using Punctuation for Effect and Influence
The dash--that curious mark of punctuation people use in their email and letters. Not the hyphen (-), but the dash (--). It's made by hitting the hyphen twice. In most cases, when you type the hyphen twice it will turn into one long dash (-). Sometimes you see the dash inserted where a comma would fit; other times you see it where you would put parentheses. How is the dash supposed to be used-and when can you use it to get the effect you want?
How To Write Cover Letters That Work
Sometimes there is confusion about the exact meaning of theterm "cover letter".
In Your Own Words
More Tips For New Writers (Part I)
|© Athifea Distribution LLC - 2013|