Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Situation vs Plot

Here’s a post at Anne R Allen’s blog: Situation Versus Plot

Have you ever had what you thought was a great idea for a novel, sat down and wrote madly for fifteen pages, and then it just… fizzled out? 

Hasn’t everybody?

Actually, no. On the rare-ish occasions where this happens, I get MUCH farther along than 15 pages before the story fizzles out. My current champion for “You got HOW far before getting stuck?” is a partial novel sitting there at 85,000 words.

I do have one that is much more recent that got stuck at a relatively trivial 50 pages, just barely enough to say that it’s started.

All of these are terribly frustrating, and in fact, yes, I think they may both be said to fall into the “Great situation, and what is the plot?” category of problem.

So, here is a clever, but perhaps overly simplistic, comment about this problem:

Unfortunately, one idea does not a novel make. You need at least two.

One idea is a situation. Two are a plot.

This post uses Jaws to illustrate the difference between a situation and a plot:

A great white shark preys upon the inhabitants of a beach town.

This is a situation.

Enter the complications: the police chief wants to close the beaches, but the mayor doesn’t want to lose tourist dollars during the busy summer holidays. The shark attacks are hushed up. It turns out the mayor has ties to the mafia, and the police chief’s wife is having an affair.

These complications are what the writer uses to build the situation into a plot.

This is a long post, but worth a look if you have time to click through.

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2 Comments Situation vs Plot

  1. Mary Catelli

    There was a time — I was twelve or so — when it would fizzle out after a page or two. One day I sat down and read them, and discovered that my problem was that I “lost interest” when I had to transition to a new scene, a skill I had yet to master.

  2. Rachel

    Mary, highly understandable. I generally write a book straight through from front to back, but not always — and one of the things I sometimes do is jump over a transition to the next cool scene that’s coming up.

    When I do write transitions, which is most of the time, I generally have to go back through and cut them hard later. I have to overwrite them to get through them at all, apparently.

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