Tag Archives: Great Expectations

Doorways…where will they lead?

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So, I’ve been reading these books on how to construct a good plot…which are mostly blah, blah, blah…

Take this piece of advice: Every story must have conflict. I can make two assumptions about this patronizing prittle pattle… the “expert” is concerned that the potential writer reads few books or watches few movies…the “expert” comes from a perfectly functional family, doesn’t frequently encounter conflict-inducing situations, and assumes that the potential writer’s life is equally harmonious…

Whatever the case…I don’t think that beginning writers struggle with coming up with a conflict…they struggle to resolve it…at least that’s always been the case for me ….

What is scary about plotting is the risk of limiting your options too early. What I mean by this is, once you go through a particular “doorway” in a plot…you are opening all sorts of other doors in the plot…but you are also closing other potential doors.

This must have been particularly real for serial novelists in the 19th century who didn’t have the luxury of retracing their steps in terms of plot. Take Dickens, for instance. Once Great Expectations was half-way complete, there was no going back because it was already published. This may explain why Dickens wrote two endings…because he didn’t have the option of revising the novel…but he couldn’t bear not opening one last door…allowing us to see more possibilities for Pip and Estella.

Ultimately, great plots don’t close all the doors at the end. Truly wonderful stories keep enough doors just slightly ajar, so that we can ache with those “what if” questions long after the last words of the story have faded from memory.

Deciding which plot doors to close and which to leave open is what makes this craft an exhilarating frustration (adventure).

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