My plot and my story are fighting…

My plot and my story aren’t talking, and that’s a problem.

Maybe that sentence seems strange to you. Aren’t plot and story basically the same thing? Nah. Here’s a video that explains:

It’s a brilliant video about one of the best movies of all time. I really suggest you watch it. But in case you didn’t watch it or just need it written out:

  • The plot is all the stuff that happens.
  • The story is what that stuff is about.

Right now I’m working on a short story about a woman who is seeking to rescue her city that is under siege by some bad people. The plot focuses on how she will rescue the city by securing mythic help. The story is about why she actually left the city and what she feels about her true motivation.

I’m convinced the plot is solid. I’ve got some unique twists and turns in a fairly unique setting. The main character’s personality is strong, though I need to strengthen her voice. Eh, it’s a rough draft. I can tackle all that in revisions once I have the overall arcs established.

I’m also convinced the story is solid. A person dealing with guilt and hiding it in a quest makes sense.

The resolutions to both the story and the plot also are solid.

The problem: The story and the plot, though they happen to the same character, hardly touch on one another. They run in parallel.

This is not acceptable.

In the best stories, story and plot resolve at the same time because they are intertwined. (OK, maybe not all the best stories. I agree with the video I linked earlier; Return of the King’s long endings are brilliant. Fight me.) Often they resolve together.

But in my current short story, the plot begins, kicks off the story, the story resolves, and then the plot can continue. That’s not great storytelling.

So what do I do?

For me, I talk to my wife. I ask Helen to read what I’ve got so far and map out what isn’t on the page yet. And she fixes it.

My Helen fixes stories.

She comes with a brilliant suggestion; end the plot in a different way that pulls in the resolution of the story in an unexpected way.

Ah! And it makes perfect sense. Why didn’t I think of that?

Which is a key realization for many writers: You might smith words like nothing else… but a fantastic editor is worth her weight in chocolate chip cookies.

Which we also enjoyed tonight.

So tomorrow I’ll get back to work on this short story with the new ending in view. And let me suggest to you: When you write, have in mind both the plot and the story. It’ll make you a stronger storyteller, leave you with more memorable tales, and don’t forget to thank your editor (preferably with chocolate chip cookies).

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