Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Down With Story

For today's post, let me start off by saying that I don't necessarily agree 100% with it. This is more of an experiment that I am kicking around, and I hope you can approach it with an open mind.

Lately, I've been feeling like the idea of having a story in our stories is problematic. Plot, character arc, rising action to a climax--is all this necessary? We're told that it is, but is it really?

When I think about what inspires me, most of the time it is a character, or a situation, or some small detail or phrase that I fall in love with. I get that bit of inspiration down on the page, and then I face the problem of shaping it into a story. And, really, that shaping step is sort of insincere. I've already recorded what I want to record, and the rest of it sometimes only manages to contort the original inspiration into something unnatural and unimpressive. Then, not only have I not created a moving story, but I've also buried that one small thing that I fell in love with in the beginning.

Usual when I write, I have a DVD playing off to the side, something that keeps me in a constant mood. "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Gosford Park" are a couple of my favorites, and I realize that the reason I like them is because the majority of these movies is all plotless. Really, nothing much happens until twenty minutes before the end, when some conflict finally emerges and the story suddenly races up that notorious plot chart. And, when these movies reach that big conflict, that's usually when I reach over and send the movie back to the beginning. I enjoy just having intimate stories moving along, and the big conflict pulls me out of that comfort zone.

So, since it's what I love, could I get away with writing a story that doesn't bother having that big conflict? Can I write a still life? Would people give it a chance?

In the end, and I truly believe this, writing is about entertainment. Whether it be on a deeply emotional level, or more of a light-hearted level, I enjoy books because they entertain me. So, if I can feel fully satisfied from watching only 70% of "Gosford Park", (more satisfied, in fact, than when I watch the whole thing) maybe it makes sense to stop writing a story when I have captured what I want to capture, rather than kneading it until it looks the way I'm told it's supposed to look.


  1. Didn't Stephen King say, 'Take your plot and put it under house arrest'?

  2. The idea you mention here sort of reminded me of Twilight. No plot for 400 pages- then bam! the "evil" vamps show up.

    Twilight may not be the most literary of works, but it's certainly entertaining. And now that I think about it, I did enjoy reading the first part more.

    And hey, SMeyer's books made up nearly 20% of ALL BOOK SALES for the last quarter of 2008. So maybe you're on to something here...

  3. It's intriguing that you start off by saying you're not totally convinced of what you're about to say, because I am always interested in finding out about the thought processes of others.

    I don't know what I feel about the necessity of story in a story, largely because I haven't quite thought about it that way.

    What strikes me about this post is how you describe your process of getting a story out of an initial spark. The word "insincere" may be a big clue as to why you have these defiant thoughts about what is supposed to be fundamental. Being coerced into doing something, whether the coercion is external or from your own ideas about writing, is never received well.

    Just my thought.

    BTW: love Totoro! The artwork as much as the story. Oops! I mean the movie. (You don't think there is a story in Totoro?)

  4. Another Totoro lover here! really like Gosford Park and just watched it again recently--how funny.
    Davin, I know what you are saying. Sometimes I just love the initial character and set-up and by the time I've written a whole story I feel I may have lost that spark. I don't know what that means, I only know it is so.

  5. If a character is engaging I'll follow them anywhere.

  6. think GOSFORD PARK doesn't have a plot for 70% of the movie?

    But--it does!

    All that stuff before is layering in the characters--what they're like, what their motivations are--so that when you see the grand finale, you understand *why*. The two are tied together. And you may like only watching the beginning now, but wouldn't you be disappointed if you could *never* have seen the end?

    (For the first time ever) I think I disagree with you. Plotless stories *don't* work. Even TWILIGHT, where the evil vampire doesn't show up until the end, doesn't not have story--it's just that the story is focused on the conflict of forbidden love, not surviving the evil vamp. Likewise, GOSFORD PARK *does* have conflict--it's just that it's focused on the conflicting nature of servants vs. the elite. The murder at the end is a means to an end to exemplify the conflict between lower and upper classes.

    Perhaps my point is this: you can't have works without plot or story--it just that some of the best works have plot/story with an unexpected and untraditional focus (i.e. a murder mystery that's more about social classes, or a vampire story that's more about love).

  7. I'm with Beth on this one. Twilight has plot, and I'm sure Gosford Park does, as well, although I've never seen it. There's Sabrina, too, that I've heard lots and lots of people say there is no plot until the end.

    I think maybe you're missing an adjective here - action plot or traditionally exciting plot

    Is that what you mean? I like slow work, as well, and what I've been frustrated with about Monarch is that a lot of readers were upset there wasn't more action, because, you know, he's a SPPPYYYY and there's supposed to be action, not just dragged on plot. Right?

    If you're saying that stories don't need tension in order to engage the viewer or reader, I must disagree. Every story needs tension. Is there tension in Gosford Park? If not, it must be completely and utterly boring. There's got to be something. Kat says Twilight is plotless, but it's not. There's tension. There's plot. She doesn't meet the MAJOR part of TENSION (think system here, Davin) until 400 pages in.

    But, having said all that, I think I know what you're getting at with all of this, especially when you brought up that "initial idea" thing. Scott and I have discussed this as well. The initial idea of story is something I believe a artist must hold onto as they create their work. Deviating from that initial idea, like Scott has done at times, and I've done, and I'm sure you've done, gets into a plot realm we never wanted - because we listened to what other people thought the story should be. Somewhere, that initial idea got lost in plot.

  8. Oh, when I say plot, I also mean story. Didn't use your terms, sorry!

  9. I think everything has a plot, or story (same thing). I haven't seen the movies you mention, but I know what you mean. I also like movies that seem to sit there and you can enjoy the characters. I like my books that way, too. They're not plot-heavy, but you can still boil them down to a sentence: This character wants this and gets it/doesn't get it.

    Your post made me think of short stories. I don't read a lot of them anymore (shame), but I love how short stories are about a moment or basically one character.

    I think you should check out Lorrie Moore's collection Like Life. Each story has a basic plot, but mostly I come away with some deep, often wry and somewhat depressing, feeling. It's awesome. If anyone can capture a moment or feeling in a person's life, it's her.

  10. It's a risky move -- there's a reason these story elements are so near-universal -- but not impossible.

    Your post makes me think of creation myths. Usually in these (at least early on in them, and sometimes for extended periods of time) there's no conflict, but I'm fascinated just because of the inventiveness they display. I want to know what happens next, and I want to think about the reasons for and implications of what happens next.

    But inventiveness doesn't have to be the only stand-in for conflict. It can be richly observed detail, elegant turns of phrases, humor, word-games, any number of things. But it's really hard to keep up the reader's interest the longer you go on without real conflict.

  11. Something has to happen. Even if your 80,000 words are just describing a field, make it go through a seasonal change. If it's characters, at least make them age, and allow the passage of time to drive the story if nothing else does.

    I think there are two elements to a novel. The writing is only half of it. The idea driving the writing is the other half. What are you trying to tell us? (Er, excuse us). Beautiful writing without a purpose behind it is ultimately empty prose.

    If you think you can pull off a full novel about an unchanging character in an unchanging world, give it a try, but I predict a very low readership.

  12. I think it's possible to have a whole story without a recognized plot structure.

    To use Kathleen's example of Twilight, the first 400 pages were fine, in my mind, without the evil vampires showing it. It seemed like she'd written a whole, sufficient, nice love story with enough conflict as needed, and then tacked on at the end a more traditional idea of plot and conflict.

    Maybe, the first idea you have isn't what's traditionally viewed as "story" or "plot." That's okay, as long as there's still enough going on to keep a reader interested. After all, I never met the person who read Twilight for the scenes involving the evil vampires.

  13. Thought provoking, as usual.

    I don't know what I believe about this either. On the one hand, when I write, I worry less about "crafting" the story into story arcs and plot lines and worry more about following a particular story where it wants to go. I actually find great joy in watching what unfolds as I write.......

    On the other hand, every story told has the possibility of plot or no plot, depending on how you tell it. There is no conflict free existence. However, no story truly tells every moment in a character's life. As the writer, you either tell the stuff that moves the story along, or you tell the stuff that doesn't.

    (you can substitute "show" for "tell" in any of the above!)


  14. Wow! Some really great comments! Thank you everyone.

    Let me get back to Totoro and Gosford Park, since (to my happy surprise) several of you are familiar with these. Yat-Yee and Beth, yes, both of those movies have some story. There is definitely tension, there is progression, there are relationships. Those are the things I love. (Beware of more plot spoilers following.) But, what I think both of these have in the first 70% is a slower, more simmering development, and because this is the majority of the movie, I'll assume that this was the director's original inspiration. I could be totally wrong about that. At the end of Gosford Park, after the murder happens, we suddenly get the goofy detective, we get a series of verbal admissions and revelations. Same thing in Totoro after May (Mei?) runs away. To me, these feel much more manipulated, and I'm pullled out of the story, and in my own writing I think the only time this happens is when I feel the need to "make a story" out of what I've written.

    Tricia says it better than I did. I like the set up in these movies, and by the time I get through the whole story, I feel like the spark has been lost. The movie "Lost In Translation" is an example of keeping that steady pace and carrying it throughout. I could name others.

    T. Anne, thanks for the cool quote!

    Kat, Now I want to read Twilight even more, if for no other reason, to be able to be part of that dialog. Thanks for telling me about your experience of reading it. And, she is a GREAT indicator of marketability!

    Rebecca, Good point! I think I'm the same way.

    Michelle, You're also saying this better than I am. Traditional plot is more correct. I think the problem happens when I am creating something that isn't traditional and suddenly feel like I have to conform to make a piece viable. Sometimes it works and sometimes it won't. The end of Rooster is a place where I feel that discord. I wanted it to end on someone other than the protag, but then I felt like that was too strange. Hmm.

    Annie, thank you for your thoughtful comments and the recommendation for Lorrie Moore. I'll keep her in mind and check it out on my next library or book store run. I think all these comments are helping me a lot. And, perhaps it's not about being plotless, but about how deep the plot is buried among the other, sometimes more interesting, elements. I decided a year ago that I wanted my work to equally satisfying throughout the story, rather than building up to a climax, but that doesn't exclude the possibility of story.

  15. The QueryrRacker blog has an interesting post today that is kind of relevant to this topic:

  16. Jabez, I guess this post sort of comes down to the hierarchy of writing elements. We have all these rules that can be broken. We can have rich prose or bare prose, dialog or no dialog, likable characters or unlikable characters, and really, conflict, is just another thing on the list. But, I think it's really high up on the list. And, you're right, it would be incredibly challenging to write something interesting without that conflict. I wonder, though, just as I probably couldn't force myself to write sci-fi or romance, no matter how much I like it, maybe it's unreasonable of me to force myself to include a rising action and climax in every story, even if it means producing something that no one else will like.

    Rick, For me personally, I think all of my characters would change. But, they may change constantly and steadily throughout the story rather than having any sort of big change at the end. Putting it that way, what I prefer seems not so strange. Thanks!

    Dominique, that's a really interesting point. I need to read Twilight, or at least talk to a bunch of people who have! Is it really the love story that pulls people through?

    Shelley, Thanks also for your thoughtful post. I think you're approach is a really healthy one, one I wish I could choose too. If only I could get the critical voices out of my head. It SHOULD be a natural progression, and I have a feeling if I followed that natural progression, some of my stories would have plots while others didn't. Maybe I should just go with that. Accept and expect the possibility of both and then decide if they are worth reading when I'm done.

  17. Thanks, Rick. I'll check it out right now.

  18. I get what you're saying here, Davin, and I agree to a point. There are definitely stories that do not immediately grab you and pull you along on a wild ride. What you're talking about here is characterization.

    I can easily enjoy something that has compelling characters, and somehow I am enthralled in whatever it is that happens to them (or doesn't happen, whatever the case). The storyline is so subtle as to be almost not there, but you don't mind the ride because you're enjoying the companionship. Or am I misunderstanding your thought process here?

    There does have to be at least SOME story or plot, even if it's very subliminal. Nobody is going to want to read about Bobby Joe sitting on a bench watching the paint dry, unless of course there is something else that keeps them interested. Anyway, this is my off the cuff answer. Hope it helps.

  19. Davin, you know this topic interests me deeply. I've discussed this with both you and Michelle, and I think my concern is that, because we writers hear a constant litany of "strong conflict shown immediately" and "tension" and "character arc" and "strong plot" from agents (mostly) and editors, we are being guided down a very narrow path of storytelling. There is a certain shape that "marketable" novels are supposed to have, a certain way of setting up, developing and resolving the conflict that allegedly will result in a "correctly" formed novel, and by adhering too adamantly to that template, we might end up forcing our stories into shapes we don't intend.

    In other, plainer, words, if writers strictly follow all the advice blogging agents give, we'll all end up writing stories that are the same in a lot of ways, and we might be afraid to write the stotries we really want to write.

    Davin and I, at least, read a lot of current short fiction. In short stories, writers are far more free to experiment with open-ended forms without traditional character and plot development. You can stop and examine a moment in time from as many angles as you like, and you don't have to have drama or resolve any of the tension. You can say, "Look at this" but you don't have to say "This is what happens." Which is a significant difference. It is possible to write novels that way, and maybe there won't be much of a readership (which is a shame). But the point is: do we write to have large readership, or do we write because we have certain things on our minds that we want to share, even with a small group of readers?

    Also: Are fiction writing and storytelling necessarily the same thing? Does a book (or movie) have to tell a story? Why? Says who?

  20. We writers hear a constant litany of "strong conflict shown immediately" and "tension" and "character arc" and "strong plot" from agents (mostly) and editors, we are being guided down a very narrow path of storytelling.

    Scott, YES. This constant litany, as you say, of writing advice for "marketable" books is I think why one can worry about plot-driven vs character-driven or just having a story that is, subtle, I guess.

    Honestly, when I read that advice about hook the reader right away or make sure by page 30 you have it all out there, I just roll my eyes. I don't like to read those kinds of books, generally. And I'm not interested in writing them.

    Most of my story ideas come from moods and themes anyway, so it's hard to think of "page-turning" plot arcs. I don't care. I'm going to write about what I'm obsessed with and leave it at that.

  21. Davin, welcome to my world! I knew you'd been hanging out there but were a bit uncomfortable doing so. I've been corrupting you! lol

    "Lately, I've been feeling like the idea of having a story in our stories is problematic. Plot, character arc, rising action to a climax--is all this necessary? We're told that it is, but is it really?"

    --Nope! I think that the more mechanics the writer focuses on, the more mechanical the story comes out. I've learned what all those story elements are, especially while screenwriting. But when I hear people going on and on that they're hyperaware of these WHILE writing and that they work on these elements one at a time, they lose me.

    I don't write like this and no one reads like this. People read end-products, not the work involved (normally). If too many single issues are worked on separately, whole works come out more disjointed. Novel readers especially must be kept reading a narration smoothly, from one transition to the next, even if the transitions are abrupt and contain a change in tone--as long as the parts of the novel still serve the whole narration, even abrupt transitions can work.

    However, I find that in too many novels, the left hand isn't talking to the right hand. Somewhere(s) along the way, the creators have gotten lost over the story's length. And, therefore, so does the reader get lost, at least THIS reader.

    If a particular writer needs to obsess about mechanics or else she never writes to The End, then the writer should obsesses. But I've found that the more I obsess about the technical stuff, the less I feel like writing and the worse my writing comes out. I must be "taken away from the writing by my own writing." While writing I don't like being too aware that I'm writing because then my end-products don't have a realistic enough feel, they wind up sounding too contrived.

    The "show don't tell" mantra--to me, yet another poorly thought out mantra because it doesn't take into account that writers are always telling, assuming they're speaking through narrations. If you approach a story as if you're telling it, as if you're standing there talking to another person, getting the usual story structure down (beginning middle end) becomes easier. This is why I think first-person narration is appealing for many writers--making your fictional case, relaying it tends to be easier then.

    I think novels are about narration more than any other fiction writing form is, so knowing how to tell when novelwriting is very important, especially because they're so long.

    Imagine you're trying to relay your morning to a friend. Your morning went like this: you went to the grocery store to buy bread, and on your way out the store's door, you got pickpocketed but didn't realize it till you'd gotten home.

    How could you after-the-fact show this without opening your mouth? Maybe you could mime the whole thing, but that would take an awful lot of effort to show simple but specific events. Telling it directly would be more specifically accurate.

    In a novel MANY events like that normally occur; they can't all be explored in the same amount of show detail. I think in novelwriting, telling is actually more important than showing, unless a writer intends to pen the longest novel in history!

  22. "because we writers hear a constant litany of "strong conflict shown immediately" and "tension" and "character arc" and "strong plot" from agents (mostly) and editors, we are being guided down a very narrow path of storytelling....In other, plainer, words, if writers strictly follow all the advice blogging agents give, we'll all end up writing stories that are the same in a lot of ways, and we might be afraid to write the stotries we really want to write."

    --What do you think I've been going on and ON about, even here when I often tell writers to write in their own ways, throw out the rules at some point, ignore "no adverbs" and so on??? Maybe I've been corrupting you too! lol And, if so, I say, GOOD.

    I'm obsessively concerned about this not just with my own writing, but I also think each writer probably is and should be unique. Yet when many write to outside prescriptions, that individualized uniqueness disappears. All of them should follow their own prescriptions.

    I think for some writers, based on their specific contents, following the rules DOES work well for them. But for others, that just isn't the case, and they force rules onto their works and then the works don't work.

    Find what you write best and make your own rules for executing that best writing of your kind.

  23. One more thing, in response to Davin's original post and Scott's last sentences: I don't think all fiction must tell a story. However, I do think a "short story" must tell a story because the definition of such demands that.

    ...Now, I come to: what's the definition of a story? I think more writings could fit into this category than are typically considered stories. Some definitions for story are loose, and don't even include beginning, middle and ending requirements. Personally, I think those are mandatory, and calling some writings shorts rather than short stories is the correct way to approach writings without a conventional story structure, especially if a piece doesn't have an ending. I think I've written at least one piece like this, A New Life; it's in my book. And I consider this not quite a short, but also not quite a short story. Maybe it's its own thing--I'm not sure.

    But if you're writing something that doesn't contain a story, consider calling it a new form. On my old blog (years ago) I said I think the English language is complex enough and human experience is vast enough that more new writing forms should have been invented already. Yet proportionately few have been, and most writers keep using the same-old ones. Maybe because these forms work. But maybe also because writers aren't being creative enough.

    Now I must also say: I've tried inventing new writing forms...and it isn't easy at all. I'm still working on it and pulling my hair out as I work on it, so I can understand why few want to be bothered inventing anything new structurewise.

  24. F.P., I think one important thing to remember is that most writers probably do want to write traditionally-structured and marketable novels. There is nothing at all wrong with that. My concern is that writers with other intentions will end up feeling that they must follow those same rules and will find themselves writing books they themselves would never buy or read.

    The 'rules' work for most people, and most people who want to write genre or commercial fiction would do well to take those rules to heart. But for some of us, the rules might have little to do with what we read or write. But (and I say this with some discomfort) in this marketplace--if you want to be published by someone other than yourself--writers should know which side of that line they're on. A genre fiction writer will likely not do himself any good by invoking Proust to defend his supernatural thriller that's 800 pages long and filled with remembrances of things past.

    Some literary authors (I'm thinking of people like A.S. Byatt, David Mitchell or Salman Rushdie) get away with pretty much ignoring traditional ideas of structure and still do well with their careers. Others (like Peter Carey or Iain McEwen) follow the basic 3-act dramatic structure comfortably. I think it depends on what, as Michelle says, is the initial idea behind the writing. Sometimes a book is about ideas, sometimes it's about characters, sometimes it's about events, sometimes it's about all of them. But not always, and solutions need to be found by authors of books with unique initial ideas.

    I don't think that, for most writers, the advice to throw out the rulebook and just write as the spirit moves them will necessarily help to reach their goals. For most writers, traditional storytelling is the goal. There's nothing wrong with that at all.

  25. I understand what you're saying and the kind of book you're talking about could be very interesting as long as it is done well. Have you read Anne Tyler? I just read my first book by her and it strikes me that she does this to a certain degree. I'm not saying there's no plot, but the book I just read is more about characterization. (I blogged about the book today in my book review.) The storyline is there to facilitate getting to know the characters and people in general. I would think the kind of book you're talking about writing would be very lyrical. The demands of plot and story would not be as rigorous there.

  26. Eric, yes, great point. I think we're on the same wavelength here. If something is interesting, it will work, right?

    Scott, Annie, F. P., it feels so nice to have so many supporters on this. Thanks for your thoughts! I'll admit that having a wide readership is something I long for. I'd love to be able to share my work, to know that other people can connect with it. At the same time, I guess if I was producing something that I wasn't emotionally attached to, I wouldn't care as much if other people saw it. But, I do think of my writing as the beginning of a dialog.

    And, I agree that writers will and should have different goals. Some want to write for money or fame, that's okay. In fact, I'm on board with the fame part, if at all possible! Given that, it does seem wise to at least be aware of what it takes to reach your particular goal, and sometimes that means selling your soul, to put it harshly.

  27. Lois, Thanks for the heads up! I'll check out your blog. I am quite familiar with Anne Tyler and like her a lot. I was introduced to her work a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I think you're right. Her stories do have plot, but they are somehow consistent, simmering...stuff I like.

  28. Selling your soul--whoa--what?!?!? Davin, now I think you haven't been "corrupted" by anything I've said if my words helped inspire your conclusion! lol I shoulda been more careful, though, really, I've gone out of my way to discourage other writers from soul-selling/selling-out. Did I somehow give the impression I approve of that...because I don't. No way, no how.

    IMO, thinking selling-out will make them successful is THE mistake too many writers make, when, in reality, most "successful" writers DON'T sell out. Most successful "commercial" writers haven't sold out; they're writing what they like to write and read--they just happen to like writing what more people find enjoyable reading. Most successful "literary" writers don't sell out; they continue writing what they enjoy reading and writing. And a few may even make a part-time living at writing. A literary writer making anymore than that is unlikely, so, many literary writers lower their "success bar." Frankly, Davin, you've already got a career in science. Don't ever think you're so desperate that you must sell your soul as a writer. From where I'm sitting, that would be foolish of you!

    If a writer is a literary writer--which I think you are, Davin--then in a fame-quest decides to write commercial fiction when he dislikes writing commercial fiction, that would be selling out. But will that writer really have reached his goal?

    Let's (hypothetically) say I desire to successfully write commercial fiction but find no success there. So then I write literary fiction and find success there while I hate writing literary fiction--I will have sold out and I won't have reached my goal, which was successfully writing commercial fiction.

    If you (impersonal) desire to successfully write literary fiction but start writing commercial fiction, and then find commercial-fiction success, you will have sold out, but, again, will you have really reached your goal? Literary-fiction success was your real goal. Or maybe simply finding success of whatever kind had been your real goal all along, finding fame. If that's the case, I think there's a famous quote-joke about that, about writing being one of the most difficult ways to get famous. There are easier things--try them!

    W.r.t. rule following: I think "following rules" is a necessity for commercial writing success--but only to a point. Just like literary writers have specific problems breaking in, so do commercial writers. Numerous commercial writers exist and most are probably following the usual writing rules. If you're simply another rule-following commercial writer, how will you be noticed among the huge crowd doing the same as YOU? Being a big successful fish in the smaller literary pond is probably easier than being a big successful fish in the larger commercial pond; because of this, in general, the chance of literary-pond success may be higher.

    Which brings me to my final point: too much rule-following can be a kiss-of-death even for commercial writers. To stand out, a writer must be (or at least seem) a little different. If you're TOO different, then you're an outlier and shunned and attacked, as I've written about before, which you read, Davin. But a little different as far as breaking rules is concerned--some rebellious behavior is a must for every type of writer seeking success, IMO.

    If you Davin or whoever are a very-interested-in-fame literary writer, and you want to try more commercial writing, I do think you'll need to focus on plot and conflict a lot; these are the primary commercial-writing foci. I don't see much way around doing lots of work on incorporating those writing elements.

    ...Now, I'm gonna spend the rest of the day trying to forget talk of soul-selling or I won't be able to get through the day....

  29. F. P., I wasn't speaking of myself, let me assure you. I consider myself a literary writer, and, though I would LOVE to know that I've been read by millions, I've pretty much accepted that the things I love writing about aren't conducive to that popularity. That's a choice I've made, and I feel okay with it. But, I think there are some writers that want to make a lot of money and want to be popular, and they are willing to write whatever they want to achieve that. And, honestly, though it's not for me, I'm okay with people seeing things that way. John Grisham is my example of that. He quite readily admits to being formulaic, and I can probably name more friends that enjoy him over any other writer...okay, besides J.K. Rowling.

    At the same time, I agree with you that the very best and succeeding because they are doing exactly what they want to do. Banana Yoshimoto, Ian McEwan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Cormac McCarthy. I believe all of those people are just following their hearts and have gotten successful from doing that. That's the track I want to be on.

  30. Art and entertainment are different. You see an entertaining movie sans art, you don't think of it much in the future. With art, that can also be entertaining, it stays with you. Haunts your days and dreams. Lasts 400 years.

    Plot charts--You Can't Know the True Way. You can do whatever you want with a story, and probably should. Following forms may lead to money--but isn't art about breaking-up forms and doing something new?

    Now I have to write to the President.

  31. "isn't art about breaking-up forms and doing something new?"

    Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Beethoven didn't invent any forms (he inherited them from Haydn), but he sure as hell made Art.


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