Mark Terry

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is Plot A Rental Car?

July 21, 2010
Over on Murderati today there's a conversation going on about whether or not bad writing gets in the way of a good story. That's not what this post is about, but rather something Louise Ure wrote that made me think.

Remember Lee Child's famous Bouchercon panel called "Plot is Just a Rental Car?" His premise was that if he told you he had spent the weekend in Phoenix with Cameron Diaz, you wouldn't care what kind of car he rented at the airport there. It was just the vehicle to get you to the character.

Hmmmm. Although I essentially agree that if someone told me they spent the weekend in Phoenix with Cameron Diaz, the first question to come to mind probably wouldn't be what car he (or she) rented, I do think one of the first questions that came to mind would be, "Doing what?"

So although I agree somewhat with what Lee Child is saying, I sort of fall back on the description of good fiction as "interesting people doing interesting things." And I'm not sure you can have "good fiction" (which can create a debate all its own) without having both elements, "interesting people" or said interesting people "doing interesting things."

What say you?


Anonymous Largo Chimp said...

It has to be both.

If Indiana Jones sits in his office at the college doing a crossword puzzle, it's dull. If Indiana Jones is sliding down a rope into a pit of snakes, it's exciting.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Indigo said...

I think if you can't get your readers invested in the characters, all else is fodder. In order to draw someone into a story, they need a jump off point - a character they can relate to.

You can have a great story idea and a sorry lot of characters. The story will become meaningless, unless you can transcend some sort of believability into the characters themselves. Of course that's just my opinion.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I tend to take a view similar to the French author Alain Robbe-Grillet) (who actually wrote a mystery - The Erasers) that you can't put arbitrary limits on what a novel "must" contain, such as characterization. That that is really up to writers. I've read terrific sf novels with virtually no characterization and I insist that the lack of characterization does not make them "bad" novels or render them something other than novels. The writers were interested in exploring ideas in novel form rather than psychology or human relationships. So I have to say to Indigo -- ideas are hardly meaningless without characters. And to Largo Chimp -- I'd find it more interesting and intellectually stimulating to read about a crossword puzzle than to read about someone sliding down a rope.

4:48 PM  

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