Not Plot and Art Regardless

Every now and then I do writing-related searches. Some of the results make me laugh, such as reading someone’s “singular” form of parenthesis. Okay, that one is still pretty funny. Other results are good advice or just a nice reminder that some people are not teenyboppers or opportunists trying to sell ideas that don’t work very well and/or are not all that original or hard to figure out.

But the kind I cannot abide are the ones that just turn up bad advice. For example, I recently found a site called a “plot bank” that contained maybe two actual plots. Rather, it had a few premises. From what I garnered from skimming these one-liners, there may have been no plots at all.

What it had in abundance were conflicts and plot twists.

A conflict on its own is not a plot. “do I tell her about her cheating husband?” is not a plot. “Neighbour witnesses cheating husband and is nearly killed along with mistress when she is caught taking photos” is a plot, or at least a place to start.

At most, I would call most of the “plots” on this list writing prompts. Those are a better resource when giving freely over the internet, but it still results in an annoying misnomer. If someone wants to just read some plots for patchworking together their own, or a writing exercise that involves less thinking than a vague prompt, then this is not the place to go.

Another point of bad advice that I want to tackle is what I call Art Regardless. People who say that no matter what someone writes, it’s art. Youtube comments are all things that someone wrote. My case should rest there. However, if it has to be a fiction example, then think about it this way.

Put your favourite book in mind. It doesn’t have to be A Tale of Two Cities. Just a book you like the most, or have re-read many times. Mine is Fly By Night, by Frances Hardinge (at least, the first favourite I thought of). Is your favourite book well-written? By this, I ask if it has good style, technical skill, and structure (beginning, middle, end).

If it doesn’t, then I doubt you consider it “art”. It’s fun, but do you think it’s art?

I’m not going to get into what art is–because that would fall under the purview of your philosophical conundrums. I will say that not everything has to be art. Whatever it is. Liking something does not make it art. If it did, then reading and other consumer activities would be art.

There’s also the fact that you can write absolute nonsense. I don’t mean space pirate ninjas levelling cities with a balloon animal in order to change the moon’s orbit. If you can justify it, then go ahead. It’s silly, but it’s legible. By absolute nonsense, I mean gibberish. Stream of consciousness crap like Among the Ghosts, or (a common newbie mistake) trying to include all of the information at once–from smell to thoughts to wardrobe, all with exhausting precision.

Stories need a beginning,middle, and end. People catch you when you’re lazy on the logic or research. Writing is not easy, and there are a lot of readers who will cut you zero slack for mistakes and laziness.

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