Copyright 2013 by Paula S. Jordan
… Is there a difference?
Yes, it turns out, and untangling the two can be informative.
“Plot,” says science fiction and writer-advice author Ansen Dibell, “is the things characters do, feel, think, or say, that make a difference in what comes afterward.” In other words, the skeleton a story is built on.
But what more is there in Story? And how and where do they connect?
I define story as a narrative of events (external or psychological) which moves through time or implies the passage of time, and which implies change.
I define plot as a form of story which uses action as its mode, usually in the form of conflict, and which closely and intricately connects one act to another, usually through a causal chain, ending in a climax.
The story is not in the plot, but in the telling. It is the telling that moves.
So “the telling” involves other elements assembled under an umbrella called Story made of conflict-based, action events assembled upon a skeleton called Plot.
But what are those elements? And how are they most effectively assembled?
The four basic elements of the story …:
1) Concept – The first “what if “ question in a chain of such questions which, together, become your story.
2) Character – The protagonist. “We don’t need to like him,” Brooks says, “but we do need to root for him.” (Your faithful blogger would add ‘or her’ to each ‘him’ above.)
3) Theme – “What your story is illuminating about real life.”
4) Structure – The sequence of events, and the time-honored expectations and standards that apply.
And the two narrative skills required to effectively implement them:
5) Scene Execution – His functional definition of story is “a series of scenes with some connective tissue in place.” He has a lot to say about how to write the scenes effectively.
6) Writing Voice – The “coat of paint or … the “suit of clothes that delivers the story to the reader.” He recommends a “sparingly clever or sparsely eloquent” voice.
Other elements to add? I’m sure we can name some. But I think that’s a terrific start.
I am reading Mr. Brooks’s and Ms. LeGuin’s books now. His engineering and her artistry complement one another in very helpful ways.