I had opportunity to review a few pages of a craft book on plotting. A craft book, for anyone new to the biz, is a book to guide you and help you understand basics or nuances of minor stuff like plot, character arc, archetypes, and sundry other junk.
Or major stuff.
I was on an airplane yesterday with my son. He’s 7.
Awesome, time to read how to do plot, I think.
“Say dad, I’m scared.”
“Close your window then. Here’s my phone. Fruit Ninja?”
“Fruit Ninja! AWESOME!” He descends into slicing fruit, his fears of impending death/maiming/flying forgotten. That, my son, is why I only let you play this very rarely. You treasure these fleeting moments of Fruit Ninjadom.
I open the page on my kindle and begin to read. The author explains he was deterred from writing by the conventional wisdom that good writing can’t be taught; it’s there in your bones, or forget it. He details that he finally started figuring out that no, it’s not in your bones, as much as it can be taught. And how he decided to write this book to bring the Truth to the Masses and help the rest of us pull ourselves up. Good, good, let’s get into the meat of it. Tell me what I need to know.
“Say dad?” That’s my new name. Saydad. A majority of his sentences to me start with that.
“I have a new high score in fruit ninja!!”
“Ah, yes, very good.” There. That ended the conversation. He’ll go back to–
“Look at this high score. This is my highest score ever!”
“Yes, yes it is.” Back to plotting.
“I keep hitting bombs,” he says.
“Yes, I know, but you’re not allowed to say that word because it’ll get us in trouble. Call them cherries.”
Now to plot.
“Are we in the air?”
“No, open your window and you’ll see. We’re not moving yet.”
“Oh. It’s too bright, I can’t see fruit ninja.”
“You’ll know when we’re moving, though. You should open it.”
The plane begins to move, pushed backward by a tug.
“There, we’re taxiing. It’s like moving in a car.”
“I’m scared,” he says. Fruit Ninja is forgotten.
“It’s fine. We’ll be fine.” I lean over and open the shade to see out. He closes it.
I get in a few more pages of plot, but the 7 year old is peppering me with comments and questions. I conclude that I will not be reading anything on this flight. This is a Big Deal for him.
A few moments after takeoff, I negotiate to open the window shade and I point out the beach below, and the mountains, and our house.
“Hey, this is pretty cool. I think I like flying,” he says. He’s an external processor. We spend the rest of the flight discussing atmosphere, height, speed, how long it will take, snowy mountains, lakes, why planes are better and safer than cars. Soon, we land, and gather our bags and walk through the terminal. I explain what a slot machine is and advise him that gambling is evil. I’m a dad, I’m allowed to paint the opposition with broad swaths and descriptions. We look at a display of big horn sheep, a large rocket, and a model of a train. There are pictures of wild horses lining the walls.
I decide to stick it to the mustang lovers. “Son, don’t ever let anyone tell you those wild horses are natural on this continent. They are not. They are escaped horses from the conquistadors. They are not natural to this environment and there is no argument that will ever make them that way.”
We walk down an escalator. There’s his grandma. He stands still for a moment, indecisive. “Go give her a hug!” He runs to her, calling out “Grandma!” and is wrapped in a hug. She never thought she’d have grandkids, so this is a nice gift that keeps on giving, watching her two grandchildren grow over the distance.
I didn’t get to plot yesterday. I did get to hunt for rocks in the eroded tailings of a hydraulic gold mine, and the little boy and I played in the snow a little while. Grandma gave us a styrofoam box and we brought home some snow for my 3 year old daughter, though it’s a little slushy now. I got to drive for 8 hours, time spent talking to my son.
Now you know why I didn’t get to read much about plot. I tried, but yesterday wasn’t quite right for it. I can see that XbyFri is going to be a bust; I need a lot more information on how the large picture comes together before I can make the small picture come together on the page.
Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you. And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend! C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.