One of my favorite writing books is John Garner’s The Art of Fiction. But in looking for it this morning to read once again, as I do so often, the chapter on plot, I mistakenly pulled out his On Becoming a Novelist. And in paging through it looking for that plot chapter, I came across something that … well, actually shocked me:
There is nothing wrong with fiction in which the plot is relatively predictable.
But he does go on to say,
What matters is how things happen, to the people involved and to the larger humanity for whom the characters serve as representatives. Needless to say, it is always best if the predictable comes in some surprising way.
He says there is basically one plot form: A character wants something, goes for it in the face of obstacles which may include self doubt, and “arrives at a win, lose, or draw.”
And–this is the part I found crazy interesting–he says, attributing this wisdom to the poet Coleridge)
There can be no great art … without a certain strangeness.
And goes on to assert that
One has to be a little crazy to write a great novel. One must be capable of allowing the darkest, most ancient and shrewd parts of one’s being to take over the work from time to time … Strangeness is the one quality in fiction that cannot be faked.
If I could explain exactly what I mean here, I could probably do what I think no one has ever done successfully: reveal the very roots of the creative process.
So there you have it for this week’s 1 Thing Thursday: Be strange. It’s the secret of great writing. No one can quite tell you why.
Happy writing! – Meg