25 October 2016

slush tips: plot

The slush is up somewhere around our chins...
The most important thing (or second-most important thing) in a story is plot. Basically, you don't have a story if you don't have a plot. Plot is particularly important in speculative fiction because readers expect a plot. There are many definitions of plot, such as: the sequence of events and happenings that make up a story. I prefer to think of it as the actions the character(s) take to solve the story problem(s) and the resulting resolution.

A literary professional told me recently the number one "plot" they see in queries is the wandering protagonist. She said this is not, in fact, a plot and they never request these manuscripts. It's worth repeating: someone wandering around is not a plot. On the other hand, someone seeking something for some specified purpose is a plot. A quest, then, may resemble someone wandering around, but it is a very different animal.

Some people say there are only a few basic plots, such as

  • the quest
  • overcoming a monster
  • rags to riches
  • comedy
  • tragedy
  • voyage and return
  • rebirth
Obviously, there's some overlap here and many stories combine more than one of these ideas.

I don't care what you call it or how you classify it, just show us your plot.

Next week I hope to start updating you on our next Electric Spec issue, the notable November 2016 issue.

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