Many of us take for granted the idea of “Beginning,” “Middle” and “End” with regard to story structure. But what do those words actually mean? Is there a more helpful way to look at plot? How does all this relate to eating a sandwich?
Recently, I wrote an article, “Is Conflict Necessary in Every Story?” Several of you disagreed with my argument that conflict is not essential to every story.
I don’t expect win you over with more theory. But please let me tell you about an experiment I conducted, using a personal memory that I had never shaped into a story.
First, I looked at this memory through the lens of conflict. Second, I viewed the same memory through the lens of connection. I was startled by the different results!
My "Debby Link” Memory
One day, when I was in first grade, I discovered that one of my classmates…
So many experts tell us that every story must center around a conflict. Is that “sage advice,” or just bad advice from would-be sages?
If it’s not true, what else could a story center around? Isn’t conflict essential to life—and therefore to stories? Are there really other centers for a compelling story?
Treating plot as process—rather than as a series of parts that must come in a certain order (exposition, rising action, climax, etc.)—open us to a new flexibility and adaptability in creating effective stories.
Along the way, this perspective will reveal to us the three fundamental functions of plot!
As a long-time professional storyteller, I had never been able to make sense of “plot.” The various theories always seemed too vague (“beginning, middle, end”) or too specific (the stages of the “hero’s journey) to be useful with a wide variety of stories.
So what’s a better way? What if plot is not a series of “stages” but a set of processes that you can apply in your own way?