Stephen King blows up plots

I can’t count the number of times I have heard writing coaches, or read in magazines like Writers Digest, or in books on writing, discuss plot . . and blah, blah, blah.

But Stephen King in his book “On Writing” has blown up plots. He writes that plots are incompatible with creative spontaneity. He believes stories “pretty much make themselves.” He is right.

Plotting a story is cumbersome and if a writer maps it out before setting out to write the story, then he must follow his plot outline. Having a plot stifles; it dictates what you have to write, where you have to go. There is no room for creative spontaneity.

I believe, as many writers do, that characters tell your story. Before I became a writer I heard writers talk about characters dictating the story. I thought they were nuts. But when I set out to write my first e-novel and the other books I have done or am doing, I found it to be true. The characters you create take on their own life, they move the story forward. Plot? Don’t need it, don’t want it.

I will go even further. It is heresy I am sure, but I pay no attention to story arc or character arc. Rules, blues. Liberate your self from the constraint of constipated dictums.

First comes the situation. In my short story “Flowers for Martha Clemens” an elderly man goes to a cemetery, digs up a grave, and then does something shocking. The story unfolds with two threads; one followed by a missing persons detective, the other by a young cop, neither of which realize their threads are part of the same case. I knew what the man with the shovel did, but I did not plot the story. I made things up as I went along, letting the detective navigate what he discovered back to the grave in the cemetery.

I like all the characters I have created. They live in their world and they neither want nor want a plot. They like their freedom.

My short story mentioned above is found in “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms.”

And by the way, Chet Koski, a character I created for two novels with his third story on the way, has another blog for you to read.



Filed under dalies, e-book publishing, Uncategorized, writing

2 responses to “Stephen King blows up plots

  1. starlightdaydreamer

    I remember trying to explain to my friends the whole concept of the characters taking over the story, and they thought I was insane too. The common reaction was, “But you’re writing it. You should know what happens.” True, I usually start out with a vague outline, nothing too detailed, just an idea of how I think the story might end, or what could possibly happen. It’s not concrete. It’s very likely that it’ll change.

    And that’s what happened with my most recent manuscript. I changed my idea of how the end will play out three times because the characters kept doing something unexpected or figuring something out. The actual ending was something completely different. I prefer when it takes on a life of its own. That usually means the story’s working.

    Great post!


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