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Transgressive Fiction Plot

As I explained in previous article, "Characterization", I have focused so much on characterization in the development of a transgressive fiction, plot has tended to be ignored. For many outlining never works in fiction writing, mainly because planning plot has never worked for them. For them the story can become flat if they try to stick to an outline. So, if you're one of those writers, even with a general idea in mind of where the story is going, you'll most probably let it grow away from any plans. As an example, King in his book On Writing, mentions that there are three parts in a novel: narration, description, and dialogue. He adds that, "I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and, second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible." (163) Before we go further, let's talk about plot.

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What is Plot?

In a literary work, "the plot is the sequence of events where each affects the next one through the principle of cause-and-effect." (source) Plot is similar to the term storyline, however, there's a difference between them. A plot is the way a writer tries to make the readers interested in what he/she tells. So, a "storyline" is a series of events that happen through time but a "plot" is the telling of these events in ways that create interest for the reader through the use of narration and dialogue to create emotional attachment to a character. However, plot can also mean a narrative summary or story synopsis without having a specific cause and effect sequence. So what makes a good plot?

  1. A plot should explain a series of connected events events in a story.

  2. It also needs to shows a cause and effect relationship between each event.

  3. It has to link the actions and events in a logical way.

Types and Stages of a Plot

Plots can be as simple as a traditional ballad or complex structures including a subplot or imbroglio. To create a plot, I recommend you to use Japanese manga style "Rough" that is called the nemu which actually is equivalent to "storyboard". In this style, they first create the roughs which are quick sketches arranged within a suggested page layout. The main goals of roughs outline are to:

  1. Lay out the flow of panels across a page

  2. Ensure the story successfully builds suspense

  3. Work out points of view, camera angles, and character positions within panels

  4. Serve as a basis for the next stage of development, the "pencil" stage, where detailed drawings are produced in a more polished layout which will, in turn, serve as the basis for the inked drawings. (source)

In general, there are 5 aspects or stages in a plot according to Freytag:

1) Exposition

Exposition is the starting point of a story and clear the way for following events. It is in this part that main characters are introduced, the setting is built, and main conflicts are revealed. In addition, this is where your character’s backstory should be presented to show why the main characters think and behave in a certain way.

2) Rising Action

Here the main problem or conflict is revealed. During this period, the main character will struggle to accept the conflict that could be character vs. self or character vs. antagonist, nature/society. Here we learn how the main characters handle the problems that comes their way.

3) Climax

It is the turning point in the story and mostly focus on main character's most difficult challenge. It is the most exciting part of the story and creates a turning point in the character’s life. Here you need to write about what new information your character will receive and whether he/she accepts the information or not.

4) Falling Action

The falling action happens immediately after the climax and clarify the details of the good or bad consequences that the main character have to deal with. Here you will be needed to set the stage for the resolution.

5) Resolution

Resolution is the part that we see the result of the events and the fate of the main character and antagonists are revealed. Here you need to show how the main character solves the conflicts and connect the loose ends of the storyline.

Should You Plan A plot?

The question of whether or not to plan, and how much planning to do, is a specifically is asked when a writer wants to write a novel. The reason is that novels are such a massive undertaking by any measure, outlining might seem both practical and necessary. However, it depends on what do you prefer. For me, that depends on what I'm writing. For longer fiction like novels, I plan but not for the whole story. I plan a section and I see where it goes and then I plan the next section accordingly. I can say, this method works if you don't want to spend too much outlining or if you get bored knowing what will happen at the end.

Plotting is not necessary to write a novel or any other type of story, the only thing that is necessary is actually start writing it. A good example of an author who doesn't plan is King. He explains that he sees stories as entities that create themselves organically and should be allowed to grow as they go along. I do agree with him as for me, the stories and characters grow gradually and I don't dictate them who they need to be (in my world, I'm a democratic goddess). I believe that forcing a plan for plot never seems to work out well. Once characters have their own backgrounds, voices, and motives, plot seems to generate around the characters and not the other way around.

Of course the plot is important but keep in mind that the role of plot is simply second to characterization. I always start by creating character and as I mentioned in my previous article, I start with giving them a name. For example, in ENARO, Geras, was the created way before I wrote this novel. I got the idea of creating him from one of my short stories, "Enunchism", in my first Anthology, Ideo: The Bitter Recipes of the Truth. In writing fiction, the opening events that set your story in motion are crucial because of how they set the tone and mood, build the key details of character and setting , and establish intrigue. But what is inciting incidents?

Inciting incident

The inciting incident is a plot point that hooks the reader into the story. This specific moment is when an event put the main character into the main action of the story. The inciting incident can fit in Campbell’s description of the "hero’s journey" and he defines the inciting incident as the "call to adventure".

Simplified Journey Illustration by Reg Harris

So how do you create a compelling inciting incident?

  1. By giving your inciting incident urgency

  2. By raising questions for your reader

  3. By using it to illustrate key aspects of character

  4. By setting the tone for your story

  5. By knowing where in the story your inciting incident occurs

  6. By developing your inciting incident (source)

For example, the obvious Inciting Incident in Fight Club is when the narrator meets Tyler Durdin on the airplane and is immediately fascinated with this “most interested single serving friend he's ever had.

In Transgressive fiction, a secure "normal" (the Past), a "troubling irruption or a disruptive" inciting incident (the Present) and a "lack of resolution" (the Future), all these subsumed as "fate" or "become" or "has become" or the Wyrd. The implications of "become" is about the idea of completion in the tense and the process "Has Become" seems both a foregone conclusion and a process still on going. In the Celtic fringe, for example, you can find doomed heroes having "weirds" or in Irish mythology — a "geis" placed on them by supernatural agency.

It is somehow similar to transgressive fiction for me because of the latter having matters such as "a solemn injunction, prohibition, or taboo; a moral obligation" (source). These dooms are inescapable in both genre. In folklore it is usually brought upon the hero by his violation of some prohibition as in Transgressive fiction including by his limitations.

Plot in Transgressive Fiction

As explained in my article, What to know before writing Transgressive Fiction, it’s important to consider how your fiction is going to be transgressive. Since transgressive narrative pattern has been recurring since Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, it’s a good bet to focus on your characters rather than on external plot. In Transgressive fiction, plot follows the same format as all other fictions. But in Transgressive Fiction, its format should suck readers in by introducing characters, character development, and how the internal and external world building impact them, and compels readers to keep reading in order to satisfy conflict and answer questions.

So, remember that it is true that plot is about cause and effect, but, most importantly, in Transgressive Fiction, plot is about a character’s choice. In other words, it’s not merely a recitation of facts but you should demonstrate the facts in a plot with each having a purpose, putting a character into a situation where they must make a decision and pulling the story toward its conclusion.

Also, keep in mind that, most great stories are made up of more than one plot. You have:

  1. The Main Plot contains most of the scenes of your story.

  2. The Subplot usually deepens the story and adds another dimension to your story.

  3. The Internal Plot shows the development of the main character as they grow in maturity or selflessness.

Now it's your turn:

To write a plot, you can download this worksheet which includes questions you need to ask yourself while creating it. I used Freytag's perspective to develop this worksheet.

Plot Worksheet
Download PDF • 46KB

That's all for today. In another post I will explain more in detail about subplots and different types of story arcs and structure. Stay tuned. See you next week.

Fun Fact

Do you know that the King's Novel, "It", could not be accepted as it was published at the beginning? When the movie adaptation of Stephen King's "It" was announced, fans of the novel wondered, "How would filmmakers remake the strange, graphic, and chapter-long orgy scene between pre-teens?" If you watched the movie, you already know that there is no trace of a sewer orgy. Clearly, the movie works without the Loser's Club stripping down in the sewer and losing their virginities after defeating "It." Stephen King says the reason he put it there was intended to bind the Losers Club together for life, so they could come together to defeat It again. He mentions on his official message board that "Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues." This orgy scene might be the most famous of King's transgressive and sexual content and he usually write about dark and twisted forces in the universe that follows that his sex scenes contain dark and twisted elements.(source)

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