INKWELL NEWSWATCH 
Monthly Online eZine  
News And Views For Working Writers

INdex 
 
 INside Scoop
 
 ON THE COVER
 
 INside AUTHORS
 
 COLUMNS
 IN Her Own Write
 INscribe
 Pen IN Hand
 Write On!
 INstruction
 
 WRITER'S LIFE
 Fiction
 Nonfiction
 Screen & Stage
 Poetry
 
 TOOL KIT
 Top 10 Resources
 Advice/Q&A
 Features
 Book Reviews
 Items Of INterest
 Global Offerings
 INside Services
 
 INside CHUCKLES
 Bill The Bard
 The Writer At Work
 Games & Puzzles
 
 FREEdom STUFF
 Classifieds
 Syndication
 Classic eTexts
 Free Software
 IN Banners
 
 ABOUT IN
 Who's IN
 What's IN
 Submissions
 Editorial Calendar
 Advertising
 Join IN's Team
 Contacting IN

IN Front Cover




Search

Learn To Be A Better Journalist

Buy Classic Literature Collections

Acclaimed Screenplay Writing Software

Books On How To Write Fiction

Become A Well Paid Travel Writer



Vote daily and raise our ranking!


COLUMNS
IN Her Own Write
January, 2008


Food of Love

Lots Of Plots
Not really
By  Anne R. Allen

"There are no new plots, just new ways of telling them."
 
I don't know who first said those words, but I'm sure there was some version floating around when Virgil met that guy at the Emperor Augustus's orgy who said, "You're a writer? Hey, I've got this idea for a book about a guy who sails around the Mediterranean having adventures. You can write it down and we'll split the proceeds 50/50."
 
Experts don't agree on the actual number of plots. In the 19th century, Georges Polti listed 36 "Dramatic Situations." In 1993, Roland Tobias counted 20 "Master Plots," and in 2005, Christopher Booker compressed the list to 7 "Basic Plots." This April, Miss Snark said there are only 6.
 
But they all agree the number is finite. This means somebody has told your story before. It's all about how you write it. (But don't try to explain that to the guy who wants to do the 50/50 thing. Just run. He has a lawyer.)
 
So if all plots are old news, why do agents so often reject our queries for predictable plotting?
 
They're talking about storylines they've seen done badly by so many amateurs, their eyes glaze over unless they can immediately spot a unique twist, superb writing, a celebrity tie-in – or all of the above.
 
I'm not telling anybody to abandon a work-in-progress because the plotline is over-popular – just warning that you'll have to work harder to make yours stand out from an ever-expanding pack.
 
The storylines complained about most often fall into one of three categories.

1) The Thinly Disguised Memoir/Rant

  • The Health-Crisis Survivor: The protagonist has breast cancer, a parent with Alzheimer's, or an autistic child – and after much agony, learns what's important about life. Heart-wrenching, but depressing doesn't sell books.
  • My Terrible Childhood: Child abuse is tragic stuff, but after a reader has seen a hundred versions of Bastard Out Of Carolina in a week, she gets calluses on her eyeballs.
  • Days Of Wine And Roses: Too many addicts have twelve-stepped before you. It's hard to make a story of  "I was soooo messed up" sound fresh. Journal about it, and use your insights in other work. 
  • The President/Prime Minister/Mayor Sucks: Because it takes so long to get a novel published, most of what you're ranting about will probably be old news by launch date. Place this material in zines, newspapers, blogs, etc.

2) The Wish-Fulfillment Road-Trip Fantasy 

  • Thelma & Louise: Unappreciated housewives leave soul-stifling lives for the freedom of the road. Sounds fun, but we all know how it ends.
  • Me & Bobby McGee: Unappreciated husband leaves soul-stifling life for the freedom of the road. He picks up a sexy hitchhiker who teaches him what's important about life and some nifty things to do in bed.
  • Zen & The Art Of: Same story as above with motorcycle, sailboat, classic Corvette, or other companion vehicle.

3) Obvious Or Copy-Cat Plot Devices

  • Grail Quests: J. R. R. Tolkein provides some pretty stiff competition in the "searching for a magical object" category. If you saddle this old warhorse, make sure it takes you somewhere wildly original or funny.
  • Wardrobing To Narnia: Blogging agents kvetch most often about the proliferation of "portals" in SciFi/Fantasy queries. Pop your characters to fantasy worlds by magic toaster or something. 
  • The Harry Potter Hero: The ordinary kid who doesn't know he's the anointed hero destined to fight the Evil One and save the school, civilization, planet, or other identified group. Old when young Arthur pulled the sword out of that stone.  
  • Biological Warfare Or Eco-Terrorism: If you've seen five cop shows with the same plot in the last month, you'd better have a really new take on it.
  • A Writer Writing A Novel: We're told to write what we know, which is probably why most writers try this one. But you'll do better with a story about your day job at the laundrette. 
  • 101 Bad Dates: If you've got to put your heroine through the hell of meeting a bunch of clueless frogs before she kisses the right prince, have something else going on – like maybe she's fighting demon eco-terrorists who have emerged through the portal in her gym locker, searching for the sacred chamber pot of Zog, owned by her autistic grandmother. 

On the other hand, oldies can be goodies. I'm sure somebody said to Virgil at that same orgy, "A lost dude sails around the Mediterranean after the Trojan War? What – you never heard of Homer?"
 
In the end, it's about the writing.

IN Icon


Anne R. Allen is a California novelist and freelance writer. Her latest comic novel, The Best Revenge, (Babash-Ryan) debuted in the UK in 2005 and is available from amazon.co.uk and most UK bookshops. Her first novel with Babash-Ryan, Food of Love is available from  amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com as well as amazon.co.uk  analan2@yahoo.com

Sign Up and Use Our New Forums! Voice Your Opinion! Discuss Our Content! Ask for Writing Assistance. Post Your Successes, Queries or Information Requests. Collaborate with Other Writers.

© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

IN Her Own Write
IN This Issue
Timeout
For Whose Eyes Only?
Rewrites Without A Contract?
What's Your Genre?
Who Needs An Agent?
Lots Of Plots
Writers' Conferences?
Writing The Dreaded Synopsis
Hooks, Loglines, and Pitches
Landing An Agent

Support IN
Receive Free Gifts
$20.00 Voluntary Contribution
$35.00 Voluntary Contribution
$50.00 Voluntary Contribution

New Novelist Software


Effectively Manage Your List


Writers Digest 101 Site Award






Your Ad Here

Traffic Swarm For Writers


Hottest Books This Month!

Whose Books Are Turning Into Movies?
Bald Ego
Mouse Over To Pause

Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

Poetry
The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

Pegasus
It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

Re-Verse
The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at FatherGoose.com


Our Own Banner Rotator System
Any banner seen below is either our own or one of our members.
Support the cause - click a banner.


Want Your 468x60 Banner Above? It's FREE For Newly Published Books

© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049
All Rights Reserved. Copying in any way strictly forbidden.
Our Disclaimer Is Based Upon McIntyre's First Law: "Under the right circumstances, anything I tell you may be wrong."