Let’s welcome author Craig Hart this week for the on-going discussion about plot vs. characters. What you will read below comes from his book, The Writer’s Tune-up Manual, in the section called “Thou Spelunker.”
spe・lunk・er noun \spi-y ləŋ-kər, y spē-y \ : one who makes a hobby of exploring and studying caves. (Merriam-Webster)
In this instance, the “cave” is your plot and the spelunker is you. The argument could be made that your readers are also spelunkers, but you have to go there first and lay down the bread crumb trail so the rest of us can find our way in and out.
Like an iceberg, the majority of a cave is out of the natural line of sight. It’s hidden from view. And yet, it is what makes an iceberg an iceberg or a cave a cave. Without this secret portion, an iceberg would be an ice cube and a cave would be a pothole. Not very interesting, are they?
Applied to your plot, this means that most of it is hidden, out of plain sight, but yet guides the story and impacts the reader. This happens in the way of motivation, backstory, and subplot. None of these should take over a story and yet without them no story is worth reading.
When I was younger I read a book by a much more experienced writer who said that plot is a verb. In other words, action was the key to plot. I get what he was saying. As it turns out, however, plot is more complicated. Stringing together action scenes will never result in a gripping tale. It doesn’t matter how many sharks are closing in on the stranded swimmer if I don’t care about the swimmer or their fate.
It might sound like this is more about character than plot. And, in a way, this is true. But as I have since learned, plot is character. Your plot will never be any better than the characters who populate it. Learning to connect the two is the key.
Craig Hart-writer, editor of The Rusty Nail literary magazine, publisher for Sweatshoppe Publications, and author of The Writer’s Tune-up Manual. To learn more about Craig and his work, visit his website!
Next week, K. M. Weiland will be visiting with us!