Thursday, May 12, 2011

Plot Devices and Other Stupid Things

I have been reading a lot of projects lately committing, what I believe, is a huge plotting flaw. Simply put, writers are throwing in stupid "plot devices" that make absolutely no sense to the story, just to get the characters to do something or to advance the plot.

Plot devices are simply tools a writer uses to make something happen in the plot. Now, this is not to say that writers should not use these. I have used them when I need to make a point of view shift in a scene. The story is told from the hero's point of view and I want to shift immediately to the heroine's? How do I do it? I have the hero leave the room for a second. Nothing dramatic, but that move will allow the shift to occur easily.

The plot device issue I have struggled with are the over-the-top moves writers have been using. Characters, out of the blue meeting up with people they wouldn't normally meet up with, or quitting their jobs and changing careers, because of some ridiculous move. "Gosh, I don't understand how I got on the wrong commuter train I have always ridden for the last 20 years. This is great now, we can have a relationship."

Most of the issues when it comes to the improper use of plot devices stem from a lack of planning. You have written along on your own merry way and had not idea where you were going. Suddenly, you find your characters in the wrong places, the plot heading the wrong way or something like that. In all likelihood, your critique partners now step in creating a huge diversionary plot line to get everyone back together. Heck, you have to. At this rate, the characters will never see each other again. So you bring in the heavy artillery.

Look, your critique partners aren't being mean and trying to sabotage your career. They are there to help, but they likely don't know the whole picture. They don't know where you thought you wanted the story to go. But, in a panic, you follow them. Big mistake.

The solution is simple. PLOT! Figure out where you want to go to and how to get there. Don't create hair brain schemes that in reality have little or no chance of succeeding, or that mathematicians would say are numerically improbable. Think.



  1. Another useful, interesting post! Thanks, Scott!

  2. Oh, man, we're not allowed to use tricks? What fun is that? (JK. I would NEVER do such a thing. Really.)

    Thanks for this, Scott Eagan. Appreciate your advice, as always.

  3. Great Post and right on target. Spending effort to cover errors is wasteful and detrimental to our writing. Sure fixing it may require more work but if we end with a great story instead of something that makes readers question our sanity, then isn't the effort worth it?