When you read a novel, plots abound. There is a conspiracy, and there is a car chase, a man in an empty alley wearing a coat and having a briefcase chained to his wrist, and a teacher who is also an assassin, and then finally, a cave curtained by a waterfall at the entrance inside which lies the lost treasure of the Aztecs. Well, if not for this, there is a Dark Lord and a group of people who wish he doesn’t rise (out of his abyss?). Whatever it is, the plot is what gives a story the life it think it deserves. In the earlier days, when the whole world was bleeding with war, the stories were mostly of heroes and heroism, and also with damsels in distress thrown in for good measure. After that came the psychedelic period, and stories took a different turn altogether. Suddenly, loons were being let loose on the street and serial killers seemed to rule the day. Plots began to concentrate on the mind of the character rather than his or her actions, and this was also the period the reader gained considerable insight into the establishment of a relationship between one’s actions, one’s behaviour, and one’s mind. After the psychedelics passed, a new generation of people awakened and stories now began to focus on using subtlety and naivety to fool the reader into misconstruing the purpose of the plot, until at the end of the book, the truth was revealed melodramatically. As the rate of forays in advanced technology began to accelerate exponentially, science fiction came to life, gifting the author a new dimension in which to think and act. And today, in the space and information age, our own lives seem to be worthy of plots for a ‘critical success’ of a novel! But why am I saying all this?
I aspire to be a writer/journalist. The journalist part – I’m confident I’ll make it. As for the writer part, I have a template and a canvas ready, but the plot refuses to solidify in my mind. Whatever I think, somebody seems to have thought of it earlier. History has overtaken my mind, and whatever I strike upon as something intriguing or interesting, either a knight, a princess, a manservant, a deviant, a horse or a mammoth seems to have done it. Nothing seems new. If I forego some good idea as being ‘too’ cliche, it falls into the same bin as everything. Apart from looking something new in terms of the plot, I have also tried looking for new angles to explore the story through. I have tried to paint the characters with a different kind of personality altogether, but only to fail miserably when I have to develop the character in question. My experiences limit me now! And then, when I forgive myself for it and move further, I come across the idea of manipulating language so as to leave everything to the reader (i.e., to confuse himself into believing something else), I found myself getting confused and wanting to untie the Gordian knot so I could make the plot more plausible. This was too much! I had the information that was due to develop such and such a story, I had my characters (sans a personality, though), I had my setting. But history and experience turned the lights off!
The life of a plotter is never the same once he thinks he needs a plot. Everywhere he goes, a plot hangs in the air. If he sees a tall building, he also sees a beautiful young girl jumping off from the top of it. If he passes into a tunnel and the radio signal gets cut, he also hears phone line going off just when a woman in trouble is passing on some important information to her estranged husband. If he walks into a restaurant and sees the waiter being shouted at by his boss, he also sees the waiter creeping behind his boss in the wee hours of the morn and stabbing him with a stiletto. The obsession won’t let go! When you think you are at the verge of completing if only for the plot, then the plot dominates all your thoughts. You gradually surrender the ability to think clearly of anything. You always have the urge to go deeper into any piece of information, and how it could be used to let loose greater evils or greater goods. I have suffered enough, even if I didn’t think of it as suffering in the first place. Why won’t a plot just materialise? How do established writers do it? How did Tolkien do it? How did Rowling do it? How does Clancy manage to use the same set of countries to write such twisted tales of betrayal and redemption? How did Agatha Christie manage to use two detectives to solve a whole bunch of crimes with the given ‘clues’? All of them have their own messages created from their own can of prejudices. So do I. I also have a message of mine to put forth, and I also know how I am going to do it. But the plot?! Damn the plot!
Can stories exist without a plot?