What do you mean by plot?

The single most common reason for not accepting a story submitted to us is the lack of plot. So, here’s just a quick response to the question of what do we mean by plot.

The question I would ask in reading is, when I’m finished, was I able to identify the conflict and see it resolved? Conflict, internal or external, is one of the primary elements in plot. 

Characterization is another. Is this a person we can recognize, rather than the fictional equivalent of a blow-up doll? If it could be anyone, then it’s generic. Generic is boring.

D.M. Atkins


1 Comment on What do you mean by plot?

  1. #1 The ‘oh yeah’ elements.
    Submitted by Jack L. Pyke on Tue, 11/20/2012 – 7:48am

    Plot and character are the main drive for me as a reader. They seem to be so closely tied to the: “What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?” Mother of all elements to writing. (Henry James). Porn leaves you stimulated physically with the ‘man and woman in bed, up against the wall, spread over the table’, but erotica and erotic romance will go for the throat with the: ‘Jack and Jill in bed, up against the wall, spread over the table because…’ element; it’s psychological as well as physical stimulation.

    I love to get that ‘oh yeah’ factor, but sexual content is only part of the cause for me. ­čÖé

    #2 Yep
    Submitted by Rylan Hunter on Tue, 11/20/2012 – 8:49am

    Have to agree completely here. If I’m editing and only one part of my body is stimulated, the writer missed the mark. Engage my brain, my senses, my emotions, then package that up in debauchery and you have something I can work with.


    #3 *Whispers*
    Submitted by Jack L. Pyke on Thu, 11/22/2012 – 8:48am

    Yep — debauchery. *Grins* It’s a good, good word.

    #4 Plot?
    Submitted by Mason Powell on Tue, 11/27/2012 – 1:24pm

    Plot is simple, as my sister used to say.

    Joe has his fanny in a bear trap. Tell how he gets out of it, or how he doesn’t.

    Characterizatiion is equally simple.

    Why the hell should I care if Joe gets his fanny out of the bear trap?

    Mason Powell

    #5 Then again…
    Submitted by Mason Powell on Tue, 11/27/2012 – 1:28pm

    I remember Jerry Pournelle explaining plot, roughly thus:

    The story begins: “Lieutenant, I think you will find things out here on the frontier a little different than they were back at the Academy.”

    And the story ends: “Lieutenant, it seems that we’ve misjudged you.”

    All you have to do is fill in the middle.

    Mason Powell


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