RSS Feed Print
Plot: Does it really exist in literary fiction? GO!
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:43 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Why are you looking down here? cool
Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013 2:43 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Plot is overrated.
Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 9:54 PM
Mari concurs with Atthys.
Lucy Silag
Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 11:15 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

There are so man LitFic novels that are heavy on description, evocation, tone, setting, etc. and way, way too light on plot.  When I find a literary book with a meaty plot--I am thinking Curtis Sittenfeld's AMERICAN WIFE, or THE BLIND ASSASSIN by Margaret Atwood--it feels like a gift from heaven.  More and more I am seeing that plot doesn't have to be sacrificed in service of "art."  Plot, as far as I'm concerned, can be an art form in and of itself.  As a writer plot is absolutely the first thing I think about . . . and if that kicks me out of the "literary" club, then maybe I don't want to be in it!!! LOL.  happy


Molly Bruce Barton
Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013 11:52 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 9

I agree with Lucy about plot itself being an art form. I just finished reading a first novel published by FSG called IDIOPATHY. The writer is Sam Byers. It's definitely literary fiction. Not plot driven but character driven. Has anyone else read it? What other plot focused literary novels besides the two Lucy mentioned have you read recently?
Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 2:24 PM
Joined: 2/21/2013
Posts: 40

I think good fiction has to have a plot. Without a plot to drive the characters forward, a book will descend into unending introspection or mere description. The challenge of a true piece of literature is to combine all the elements into something that affects the reader deeply in some way. By plot, I do not mean that every book has to pretend it's a thriller; it's just that it must move or stagnate. One can create a plot out of actions or ideas, it doesn't matter. As long as there is motion of some sort.
Lucy Silag
Posted: Sunday, July 7, 2013 12:31 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

Very well said above. "A plot of ideas" is a wonderful concept.


"Plot" doesn't have to be full of car chases, romantic betrayals, round-the-world adventures, and so on. One of my favorite plots of all time is in Emma by Jane Austen (which I wrote about on the BC blog on Wednesday afternoon). Simple misunderstandings, changes of heart, curiosity about newcomers, and growing friendships amongst the small cast of characters in a tiny village add up to a very layered and quick-moving plot. (Austen's plotting in Emma inspired that eminently watchable 90's teen movie, Clueless, so she must have been onto something!)

Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 5:01 PM
Joined: 7/23/2013
Posts: 5

Something has to happen. Characters can't sit around gazing at their navels. Bad and awful things can happen in the literary novel. But don't just tell me, show me. The lit novel has to go beyond the fact that John shot Ed and is on the run from the law. It's pretty much a given that the law will be after John. But I'm more interested in what's going on in John's head as he's running. Does his character break down? How does he feel being a hunted man? And if the cops chase him, what choice might he make if his path to escape is blocked by cop aiming a shotgun at him, and to escape, he has a choice to hit his pregnant wife, who's suddenly appeared on his right side or go over a cliff to his left.
Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:44 PM
Nice description!
A.E. Skeen
Posted: Monday, September 9, 2013 11:08 AM
Joined: 9/8/2013
Posts: 7

I like what Charles is saying.  Sometimes I think that what it's really all about is how what has happened is "digested" by the characters.  Whether it is something tragic or something trivial, it is the reactions of the characters and how they react to other's reactions that build the human story.  We like to live inside those stories, I think, and that's why we love literary fiction.
Thomas Fox Parry
Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 4:40 PM
Joined: 11/13/2013
Posts: 1

A lot of novels and stories that are often called plotless are rarely actually plotless. Woolf, Munro, some Kafka, Becket, some Denis Johnson, and a hundred more are actually tightly plotted; they revolve around a question, a tension, a dilemma that is inherent in their setup. They seem "plotless" because the actions (and on some level thoughts can be action) taken into the dilemma are often undertaken without 100% intention, meaning that the character herself is not completely hip to the motivations of these actions (or even the dilemma), and these actions and their motivation, being obscure to the character, often are linked associatively--in a sort of dream logic--rather than a practical way.
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:46 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Well said, Thomas! I wonder if, in this case, you conflate narrative with plot, though! I think of them as two very separate things. The plot is the sum total of all that happens, with clearly delineated cause-and-effect relationships between the different parts of the plot. The narrative is about the union of plot (actual events) and the narrative style, which has a direct effect on the "telling" of those events. 

The narrative of THE LIGHTHOUSE, for example, is an expression of Woolf's aesthetic vision, and is invested with her ideas on war, temporality, and female kinship. It's brilliant, and has a very carefully constructed narrative, but not much of a plot. Nothing really happens in the book: The first part describes a summer day in the lives of the Ramsay family. The middle part covers 10 years in just a few pages. The third part is about the family's trip to the Lighthouse. The only reason I remember the book's plot is because I wrote a 15-page paper on it. LOL


However, what you said intrigued me. I want to hear more--maybe you can convince me!



BC coordinator

--edited by Nevena Georgieva on 11/14/2013, 7:46 PM--

Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 8:03 AM
Plot is what people conspire to do after attaining the age of reason. No characters, no plot. The older we get the more complex the plots become, because after adolescence we begin to take ourselves much too seriously. Once inflicted with the fatal disease called old age, facetiously known as the "golden years," the once artificially thickened plots,otherwise known as "soap operas" and now concocted by addlepated minds, become as guileless as those hatched in the unsophisticated minds of juveniles. Where once many were suspected in a labyrinth of plot devices, only the butler does it now.

Jump to different Forum...