Readers who are familiar with the Irish Firebrands blog know that I’m an organic, or “pantser” writer: I don’t pick a plot and then plan a story around it. My stories come to me spontaneously, and are written that way, too, supplemented by research forays that happen when I discover a knowledge deficit that must be remedied, in order for me to plausibly develop a character or scene. I write in a non-linear way, and I generally know the end of the story before I know how it’s going to get there. The discovery of a plot comes after the fact, meaning that most of the book has been written, and I’m filling in gaps.
The writing process of plotting and outlining may be a consequence of elementary and secondary school composition lessons that were based on the reading and teacher-guided deconstructing of finished works of literature. Nobody knew the author’s writing process, but because the story was read from beginning to end, it was assumed that it had been written that way. Moreover, the requirements to come up with a topic, and then to pre-write an assignment by outlining it, were internalized by students who became convinced that these were unalterable rules for writing behavior that must be followed.
A great many commercially successful works are produced in this way, and it may be the origin of much good single-genre fiction. But detailed planning and outlining also encourage plot-driven writing, which is inherently limiting, because the pressure to produce may lead to writing according to a formula or template: a predictable product, finished fast.
Some writing theorists believe that these templates can be identified by a limited number of basic plots. Here is one famous list:
- Overcoming the Monster
- Rags to Riches
- The Quest
- Voyage and Return
I believe it’s even simpler, and that there are only three basic plots: The Little Tailor, Boy Meets Girl, and Sadder But Wiser (sometimes called Gains the World but Loses Own Soul). Most of the seven suggested plots are just topics that fall under the three fundamental plots:
- The Little Tailor encompasses numbers 1-4 and 7.
- Number 5 is just an approach to storytelling, it’s not a story in itself: any tale but a tragedy can be told in a humorous way, and even tragedies will often inject some comic relief.
- Number 6 is Sadder But Wiser. Some tragedies also incorporate a small degree of number 7 at the very end, but it’s usually a deathbed kind of thing for the tragic character: “too little, too late.”
- Number 7 also falls under Boy Meets Girl.
A case can also be made for there being only one plot: Transformation. This is because the protagonist of every novel must undergo some degree of change to personality and/or motivation. In this respect, Boy Meets Girl is the most purely transformative tale, which is why love story subplots show up in novels of all genres. Falling in love provides a character with just enough change to keep readers interested.
The fewer “plot” options there are, the more opportunities there are for change, because the writer is freer to incorporate innovative developments in characterization and action. The story can encompass a broader range of human experience, which is critical to the plausibility that maintains the reader’s suspension of disbelief. This flexibility is the foundation of Fusion Fiction.
Contrast this to the BISAC concept of “genre” classification: a multitude of book categories, each of which, although officially undefined, prescribe single-topic plot concepts that closely circumscribe allowable setting, character and action options, in conformance with artificially imposed limits on the expectations and imaginations of readers. No wonder the authors of Fusion Fiction find it difficult to select a BISAC category that can accurately describe their works.
If a work of fiction cannot be accurately described by current marketing categories, then its author cannot reasonably expect it to be found by readers. If it does happen to be discovered, its author can hope that readers will be pleasantly surprised by its uniqueness, and because it delivers much more than what the deceptively simple genre code represented; nevertheless, it also risks rejection because it doesn’t “conform.”
If you write Fusion Fiction, act now to begin improving the accurate discoverability of your works: register with this website. Your text, graphics, and trailers will receive free promotion, and you will help build a community of like-minded talent, whose voices can be united to make the marketing of our Art more effective and successful.