Thursday, June 23, 2011

Plot matters

Yesterday and today have been mostly about plot.

An idea is not a plot, kids. It goes like this:
1. Idea. The premise. Describe it in one line.
2. Story. Characters and goals and conflicts.
3. Plot. How the conflict develops, what the obstacles are, what the climax and resolution are. This is where I get lost.

I have no problem coming up with ideas that are fairly original (not just my opinion, some people that should know have said so too). I have no problem coming up with interesting characters. Hell, if it's taught me nothing else, 20+ years of RPGs should have given me that. But plot gets me every time. I have an idea but I can never get it through the whole way. Confusion ensues. So how to do it?

"Drama is the quest of the hero to overcome those things which prevent him from achieving a specific, acute goal" - David Mamet.

In other words, unless the protagonist has a strong desire to reach a certain goal and has to fight, and fight hard, to overcome obstacles in the way of him reaching that goal, the story is boring. If the goal and the conflict and the obstacles aren't clear to you, there is no plot. Confusion ensues.

We went on to talk about scenes, chapters and acts as building blocks of the plot, and how each should be structured. There's so much theory that I have no grasp of, but once it's laid out in front of me, it's so obvious that a lot of the stories I really love follow these theories. There is always the choice to break the rules, as long as you're aware you're doing so and giving the reader something else to make up for it, but in general, one should stick to the rules. If not? Confusion ensues.

Right after class, I went to the reading room, which is nice and cool, did my two critiques and then tried to smack some sense into my scifi story, due in the submission folder tomorrow morning at 0730. I wrestled with it for hours. Turned it in around 1800, today. I'm not happy with it, but I reached a point where I noticed I was screwing it up even worse by working on it, so I just turned it in.

Tomorrow Theodora Goss, our next guest lecturer, arrives. My scifi story will be critiqued inclass by my fellow students, as well as Teacher and Theodora. Nervous, but looking forward to it.

For dinner, Meta, Charley and I went to Consuelo's Taqueria, in downtown Manchester. We've had Mexican food a few times since we got here, but that's been of the fastfoodish kind, drenched in cheese and fat. Now? A perfect burrito with rice, beans, lettuce and sautéed pork. Glorious. We'll definitely be going back there, especially since that big bad boy and a drink only set me back nine dollars. Sweet.

And of course I can't leave you without some quotes.

We talked briefly about the lack of plot in horror movies, and also the lack of true suspense as the stupid teenages, yet again, go into the dark room where the strange noise is coming from. Teacher saw a bright side:
"We can always enjoy them being chopped up, which is another kind of pleasure."

We critiqued a story in class with the words "Erotic Adventures" in the title. Not much erotica, but quite a bit of romance. Charley was agitated:
"I wanted sex. You promised me sex. I'm away from my wife for six weeks."

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