Writing Weakness: Plot

So we all have strengths and weaknesses as writers.  I think being honest with myself is the only way I’ll improve.  I have lots of weaknesses, so I’ll write more than one of these XD  My biggest weaknesses is plot.  I guess that sounds a bit odd to be a writer and not be able to write a strong plot, but that’s where I am.  I guess part of the reason I am writing short stories currently is to become better at this.  It’s easier to rework the plot of a short story than it is of a novel.

I mentioned that I posted my short story about the mother losing her son and donating his organs on a literary critique site.  Well, I got more than one comment about the fact that there wasn’t much of a plot.  I thought about it, and I realized they were right.  There wasn’t really a plot or much character growth.  I was so caught up in capturing a moment that I didn’t stop to consider that there wasn’t a plot XD More than one person pointed this out.  The remedy would be to write a second part to it where the mother meets Jenny and is then able to finally move on, which is what I’m planning on.  I brainstormed ideas with Friend A and Friend B.  Friend B isn’t a writer, but she’s one of my best friends, and she has great ideas, so I often use her to help me develop a story.  Friend A always has a really good plot in her stories, so I’m constantly relying on her for advice :$

I guess the more surprising thing is that it didn’t bother me that there wasn’t a plot until someone pointed it out XD I think part of the reason my plots are often weak is that I read books for the prose instead of the plot. The plot is secondary to the prose for me. And again I guess that sounds a bit odd. . . It’s not that I’m trying to be pretentious. There is something about poetic prose that sparks a fire in my heart, and I don’t think that will ever change.  Even when I was a teen I loved poetic prose.  I picked up a story by Atwood and fell in love with her prose.  It was a magical moment in my life. I can’t change the way I feel about poetic prose.  I really love it in the same manner that some people hate it. Right now I am reading a bigger variety of books to help analyze what makes a story good and what makes it boring. I’m reading a horror/fantasy/sci-fi story called Nightwatch, and I’m really enjoying it.

Most people read stories because of the plot and they find poetic prose gets in the way.  I guess that’s part of my motivation to change. Although what I enjoy most as a writer is someone connecting with my characters or feeling something. If the plot is bad, most people will never get to know my characters because the story is too boring to slog through. Then there’s the fact that I’m on a spiritual quest to be the best writer I can be 🙂

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27 thoughts on “Writing Weakness: Plot

  1. My biggest weakness is writing discriptions of things, like clothes. I couldn’t care less about what someone is wearing, but it adds a certain element to the story. It’s definitely something I’ll be working on.

    • Thank you so much! That was great 😀 The ugly duckling is a fairly compelling story. I’ll have to bookmark it so I can easily refer back to it ^^ I think too often I focus on the leaves or a specific tree without seeing the rest of the forest. I’ll keep this in mind as I read other stories too and see how they manage to accomplish this.

      To be honest, I’m not sure if my suicide story follows this paradigm. Kind of. . . I feel like it’s iffy on #2 and #3. The character is going on a spiritual journey as he dies to find forgiveness, but it’s not an actual journey. I changed it a lot when I revised it.

      *spoilers*
      I included a stronger intro to make the reader care about the character before he shoots himself. My character is seeking forgiveness, and I changed some of the flashbacks to make it more obvious why he feels guilty, which makes the ending more fulfilling. Before the revision, I felt like the reader didn’t have a strong grasp of who Kyle was or why he tried to kill himself. From what I’ve heard many people like Kyle, so it doesn’t seem characterization is an issue. But several people were a bit confused about what drove him to suicide. I changed it so that Emma was killed by a drunk driver. Then I added another memory where he gets fired for being drunk on the job. Driving home he gets arrested for a DUI, and the realization that he has become the monster that killed his fiancee is what drives him over the edge. It also clarifies his spiritual journey for forgiveness. I may need to revise the plot some more.
      *spoilers*

      • Glad you like it. There’s a TED talk somewhere by the same guy (wall-e writer) about this topic.
        I get what you’re saying about this not working too well for a tragic character. I did read a great article on that somewhere though, will dig around

  2. Thank you so much! I love reading articles like this 😀 I just looked up Heathcliff on Wikipedia, “Heathcliff is a fictional character in the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Owing to the novel’s enduring fame and popularity, he is often regarded as an archetype of the tortured romantic hero whose all-consuming passions destroy both himself and those around him.” Yep, that pretty much describes my suicidal character XD I’ve actually never read Wuthering Heights. I bought the book, but it is still on my shelf unread. Now I want to read it, lol.

  3. I’ve always said that there is a huge difference between being able to write and being able to write a novel. I hear you. I’ve totally gone nowhere with my sixth manuscript because I don’t know where to go with the plot. I had an idea, but it ain’t working. My first manuscript has a slight flaw — no plot. Oh, well.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

    • Yes, it’s incredibly difficult to write a novel, at least a well-written one. Published authors often make it seem so easy when it’s really a daunting task. There are so many things to consider. My first creative writing project was a novel, and it sucked for so many reasons XD But I learned a lot through the process. I decided to go back to short stories to work on some of these basic issues that I struggle with, plot being one of them. Once I feel more comfortable I will probably start work on a novel. I hope you find your way again with the plot of your 6th manuscript. Is that the story with Ben? I’m sorry, that sounds very frustrating! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  4. So true! I love beautiful prose, but sometimes I get caught up in writing it and forget the little details I’m supposed to be dropping. I liked your story as it was, though. If you delete the last paragraph (the one which you were questioning) I liked how it traveled from despair to hopefulness. 🙂 I often find that it happens when I pants my writing. I have to go over and rewrite them.

    My first short story was just about a child who wanted a family. There wasn’t much character development in the main character (there was some in side characters), but it was still okay. 😀

    • Yes, I want to delete most of the final paragraph and then incorporate the second half (mother meeting Jenny) into the story. So there will be hope and closure for the mother 🙂 Yeah, I was talking to Friend A about a fantasy story idea I had, and the characters and what not. She asked, “What’s the plot?” I was like, “Oh, I don’t know. . . That’s kind of important, isn’t it?” XD I get so caught up in the characters and the prose that the plot is often weak. A story about a child wanting a family sounds very sweet. It could definitely be developed into a good story if the plot was lacking. I feel like my suicide story has a stronger plot after I revised it. Friend A is so practical, which is part of why I love her so :$

  5. I also agree that creating a plot is hard! I get so lost playing around with words that I have to remind myself to include a climax somewhere in my pieces. Like you, I also enjoy reading beautiful prose 🙂 Have you read The Virgin Suicides? It is a dark novel but has such beautiful prose. I recommend it 🙂

    • Actually, I have read that book and seen the movie XD I loved it! I don’t know if I still have it. Would definitely be worth a reread. Will probably buy it if I can’t find it, lol. We have limited bookshelf space in my apartment, so some of the books didn’t make it from my parent’s house to mine, and I think my parents got rid of them. Your prose is so beautiful! That’s part of why I love your writing so much X3 Up till now, plot was more of an afterthought for me :$ But I’m looking at it as I revise the suicide story and the one about the mother losing her child. I think a good plot makes the story stronger, and your ability to bond with the character better.

      • I’m so glad you loved it! I recently read it but it is now a favorite of mine. The imagery is just so…beautiful, I don’t know how else to describe it. Aww thank you, it means so much! 🙂 ❤ your words mean so much. And I feel the same way! I've also been trying to practice by writing different kinds of short stories as a way of challenging myself. It's been tough, so I know what you're going through! I agree. The plot can also make the reader feel more connected by experiencing the same ups and downs and the character does, like you said 🙂

      • Short stories are an excellent way to practice! And I always feel so accomplished afterwards XD With a novel it takes a long time to finish. The suicide story was my attempt at something different XD Friend A didn’t think it would work as a novel, and I agreed with her, but in a short story it is an interesting presentation. I think it’s fun to do something different than what you are used to. I enjoy the different approaches you take in your poetry and short stories 😀 One of my favorite fanfiction writers was always experimenting in her short stories, and it was often brilliant. She isn’t writing at the moment, which saddens me 😦 She is one of the writers I was referring to in that post about one’s story being complex. She had beautiful poetic prose, but her more popular stories were the less experimental pieces. I loved all her pieces though, and I still reread them. I became friends with her, and she helped change the way I saw writing. She is the one that introduced me to Cormac McCarthy 🙂

      • I also feel accomplished! And I’m always nervous about them since I’m not use to writing them. But practice makes perfect so we are on the right path to success by practicing, haha 😉 I also enjoy experimenting with different genres, but I haven’t done anything too drastically different because I’m taking baby steps. Also, that fan fiction writer sounds awesome. It’s great that she still experimented and stayed true to herself even if the public didn’t like it as much. Her writing may not have been the same if she followed everyone else’s likes instead of her own. Ooh, Cormac McCarthy is the person who wrote The Road, which I think I remember you talking about in a post! It is on my to-read list. 🙂

      • Yeah, Cormac McCarthy is the one who wrote, The Road. I’m obsessed with him XD He has a very unique style. Yes, I admired her ability to stay true to herself because it’s so easy to change who you are just to get more reviews or to be more popular. Her style was actually a mix of McCarthy and John Gardner. I’m still holding out on the hope she’ll write again 🙂 Gardner is an interesting writer. That’s the best way to describe him XD It took me a long time to get into his book, October Light, which is another one she recommended for me. I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend him. I’m enjoying it, but it’s hard for me to say if other people will. A friend of mine read his most popular book, Grendel, and she hated it. His prose isn’t necessarily poetic, well it is and it isn’t XD It’s very different from McCarthy. I actually have Grendel, and I’m curious how it compares to October Light. Not sure if you have read anything by Margaret Atwood? She has beautiful prose and thought provoking stories. I love her so much ❤ She dabbles in sci-fi/speculative fiction, like Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale. She writes awesome female protagonists as well. She’s releasing a short story collection in September, and I’m so excited 😀 My favorite book of hers would probably be Oryx and Crake followed by The Blind Assassin.

      • I haven’t read any of the books that you’ve mentioned but I will read McCarthy and Atwood. I’m a sucker for great prose 🙂 I’ve been wanting to read The Handmaid’s Tale, the book is always on display at my library. One of my favorite books is by Sandra Cisneros, and it’s called Caramelo. The writing is extremely vivid. I remember finishing the book and thinking that it was a beautiful piece of art. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who loves books for their prose. Earlier this summer, my best friend and I were reading a book series that I enjoyed, but didn’t love because the writing didn’t get to me. I mean it was interesting… it just wasn’t amazing, you know?

      • Oh, actually The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my least favorite of Atwood’s novels XD I read it in high school though, so I don’t even remember what I disliked about the book. It might have been the way sex was treated in their futuristic society. I was asexual in high school, so I might have been bothered by that aspect. It’s one of her most well-known books though. Only way to know if you like it is to actually read it though 😛 I should give it another try. I love pretty much everything Atwood writes though. I added Carmelo to my Wish List 😀 I haven’t read anything by her actually. The past five years I just kept rereading the same authors. I’m trying to branch out, but the prose isn’t as good, and so the experience isn’t quite as magical.

      • Its easy for me to dislike books I’ve read in highschool or middleschool because the way my teacher taught us about it haha. I remember disliking Of Mice and Men but when I reread it on my own, I liked it much more. I’m not sure what the Handmaid Tale is about actually, so knowing that its set in a futuristic society is interesting. I hope you enjoy Caramelo! She uses Spanish words here and there, but I think that adds to the beauty of her work. I love her stuff ♥ And this summer I tried branching out as well and so far its been a good experience (except some books I couldn’t finish).

  6. I’d say my biggest weakness is character depth. My mind thinks plot first and in the drive to get the story going, I overlook the characters. I end up with characters that are like cardboard cutouts. That was why I got into short stories… it forces me to explore the characters’ past, motivations and desires. I’m hoping that in time, I’ll be able to combine plot and character. Oh, and add in sub-plots. I’m not good at that, either. Okay, I’ll move on here before I go into ALL of my writing weaknesses, haha 🙂

    • Oh really? I haven’t read a story of yours yet where I didn’t enjoy the characters. It’s a delicate balance between plot, characterization, and prose. I don’t know that I’ll ever write amazing plot-lines, but I’d like my stories to be interesting at the very least 😉 It’s definitely easier to fix these things with short stories than it is with a novel. I have a long list of things I want to improve on as well XD

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