The Tyranny of Plot

So, let’s ignore the examples, shall we? I mean, we have to if we’re going to take this whole idea seriously. Because the examples in the article are, let’s face it, not very viable.  They are cherry picked through different times of history, scattered through different landscapes and languages. The article asks would Kafka be published today as a first time writer, and I wonder– in German? In English? Is this a Kafka published as a first time novelist in the US and Britain? If not, if they mean German…does Germany’s publishing houses fall under the same sickness?

It’s too wide, too varied a selection to really make a dent in the argument at all, isn’t it? I mean, House of Leaves was published recently. As was There is No Year, both in English, but straight from the heart of America into big NYC publishing houses. So, you can easily refute every single example the article lists, since really, there is a lot of names that do publish and don’t publish experimental novels in the mainstream.

Around the glutted middle part of the article it says something glib, like “Films won and novels lost” which strikes me as odd. Since Film has been (until the age of the blockbuster) a place of experimentation, of literary ambitions.  There are a lot of “novelish” movies being put out, and a lot of experimental movies as well.

Of course, there is also this implied divide in the article between plot and experimentation as well, which I find odd. I mean, are the two mutually exclusive?

But then, I bend back, I take these arguments and push them aside. While the whole of the article contains a lot of flaws, I do have a feeling that there is something here, something it is driving at that is pure and honest and true. Plot is becoming paramount in movies and books. Plot in the thriller sense, in the action sense, in the focus on one thing and run at it like a screaming monkey sense.

I wouldn’t say film has won though, film is a medium, not a message. I would say Robert McKee has won, that inane focus on structure and Freytag’s Pyramid has won, that this idea of boxing things up and placing labels on them and pinning them up has won.

There has been a steady calcification in the plot of our narrative media. A singly predictable architecture that the public craves.  It’s the big mac of our entertainment industry, and it is made entirely out of templates and formulas. Is this necessary? Why is it necessary? What happened to stories that unraveled, meandered, went for a stroll, danced for awhile? Wander, aimless stories, stories that pick up stones and skip them on turbulent lakes?

This is part of the reason I’m leaving genre. For a brief moment it seemed as if genre loosened the straight jacket of formula and plot, and for a few gloryears it was like anything was possible, breaking anything was possible, going free was possible, flying and being invincible was possible.

But I fear that it’s fallen down the cracks of the Monomyth. We have nothing left but straight jackets and prison cells.

So what does this mean? This means I’m setting out to write books I’ve had in my head for about a decade now that I’ve been afraid to write because I deemed them unpublishable because I thought no on in their right mind would stamp this out and push them into the bookstores. But I don’t care, I’m writing to write, I’m writing wherever ideas take me. I’m writing fever dreams and post-structurally. I’m pushing past the limitations of what I think will advance my career and I’m just writing.

Fingers to keyboard, pixels on screen, writing. Is it career suicide? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you in a bit and we’ll see, won’t we? I hope not. I have faith in readers. I know you’re smart, I can tell. Just don’t let me down.


3 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Plot

    • I don’t think very many people feed themselves with their fiction, but they want to (oh so badly) so they make compromises. Even though those compromises barely eek out anything.

  1. Pingback: Just Strangle the Damned Cat! – The Problem of Formulaic Storytelling | Cora Buhlert

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