Monday, July 7, 2008

Stephen King on Plot

"I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible.

"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. ...

"[M]y basic belief about the making of stories is that they largely make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow."

~ Stephen King, On Writing

What's your relationship with plot and story? With spontaneity and creation? Do you feel the need to control the plot? Or do you let your stories "largely make themselves"?

For help in freeing your story to tell itself, check out the "Thirteen Rules for Writing in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write and the shorter version on my website.


David Niall Wilson said...

I recently listened to King read ON WRITING in audio format, and was struck by the changes in his work since he finished that book. I wrote about it a while back...

On Writing, Time for an Update?

Thanks for the quotes, but I disagree somewhat. Plot - while you don't need to know every turn and twist from square one - is just as viable a tool as inspiration, and certainly not "incompatible" with creative writing...maybe just for Steve?


Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks for your comment, David, and thanks for the link to your piece on King, which I enjoyed.

While not an orthodox fundamentalist on the subject (after all, the 1st and 13th "rule" in my 13 Rules for Writing state that there are no rules), I tend to lean more in King's direction than away from it.

My experience -- in writing and in life -- has been that the story knows best and expresses itself most creatively, elegantly and flowingly when I get out of the way and let it spill onto the page free from the limitations of any mind-determined plot or plan.

It's not the most comfortable way to write (if, like me, you have control issues!) but I have always found that it produces the most powerful results.

Justin said...

I think King's point in his comments about plot really revolved around how transparent and unrealistic plot tends to be. He admitted to doing it himself. I think if we plot, we should just try to make the pieces fit logically in the end, and to avoid the deus ex machina effect.

Great post.

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks for the comment, Justin.

I would add that if we do plot, we should not be so wedded to the idea we're crafting that we leave no room for magic and serendipity.

Even when plotting, it's important to recognize that our story has an innate wisdom that can often only emerge when we get out of its way and forego control (always a tough one!).