Cat Rambo (catrambo) wrote,
Cat Rambo

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Taos Toolbox Notes, Part I

I'm going to stretch out the notes in order to facilitate valuable discussion. ;) This is from a lecture by Connie.

What is Plotting?

            Plotting is more than the stuff that happens in a story; it’s also the arrangement, the order of telling stuff. It involves what you do and don’t choose to tell, the choice of narrator, and where the story starts and ends.

            Story and plot are not the same thing. The plot can start well into the story. People usually start their story too early, rather than too late. You want to start the story when the problem has become a crisis. Begin it in media res. In some stories, this won’t work. Try starting and then going back the smallest amount of distance that you can. You can have a set-up but it must be as short as possible.

Kinds of Plots

  1. Plots where the question is “What happens next?’. This is the soap opera style, since soap operas are pure plot.
  2. Plots where the question is “What’s going on here?” In this type, we have unexplained things that we or a character must figure out. The readers may not what’s going on while characters do not. Examples include the Truman Show (readers know while character does not) and Memento (neither character nor viewer know what’s happening).
  3. Plots where the question is “What happened in the past to bring this situation about?” All mysteries are in this category.

The best plots involve all three kinds of plotting. Example: Hamlet.


In all plots, the most critical thing is movement and change. The stability that is restored at the end is never the stability one starts with.


Things seldom happen in a straight line. The plot is a twisty road, one that circles back on itself and is very windy but still gets to its destination, despite the operation of Murphy’s Law in full swing along the way. What was wanted sometimes changes along the way.


Plots are about causality; they’re like dominoes. Things should lead into each other – “this so that, but then” rather than “this and this and then this”. The first event can be small, but events must be connected to each other. 

(And yeah, I have some posts to catch up on still that I was tagged for, but I thought I'd go ahead and start putting those notes up. I also have a LOT of e-mail and things I've procrastinated on to catch up on as well.  Just cleared 300 e-mails out of my Armageddon account, UGH

Tags: connie willis, notes, plotting, taos toolbox

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