Plot is not story

Plot is not story. Plot is what is behind the story. The story is a progression of scenes. The plot may be interesting, but if your scenes are repetitive and dull, you’ll still have a shit piece of work.

Well said, Patty (via mikandra: it’s easy).


Recognising the difference between plot and story is a fundamental skill for writers, especially when writing extended pieces (novels or novellas) and yet I keep seeing aspiring writers churning out hundreds of thousands of words of plot with very little story. Not just aspiring writers, but highly paid professionals as well (William Gibson, I’m looking at YOU).

Read the entire article.  It’s an oldie but a goodie (via Ruzkin on Writing – Plot vs Story – Christopher Ruz – Designer & Author).

16 thoughts on “Plot is not story

  1. Merrilee (and anyone else) — Can you keep me posted on Novel Push Initiative — when, where, who, etc. ? Thanks!

    Also — are you anywhere near the flood area? Yikes.

    • No worries about the floods – I’m a good 4,000 kilometres away :)

      As for NPI, I haven’t heard from Nick and his blog has been reported as having a malaware infection, so I can’t go check. Waiting to hear back from him.

  2. Let me see… So ‘plot’ is WHAT HAPPENS — the different events. And ‘story’ is basically WHY THESE EVENTS HAPPEN. The characters give life to the events — the characters make getting from point to point plausible, interesting, compelling and something that a reader cares about, so characters/story are pretty much two sides of the same coin, right?

    Or something. Let’s have a glass of wine now, shall we?

  3. In response to vjchambers’ comment, I interpret this post as saying that you can have an excellent plot but (in the words of a well known UK comedian) “it’s the way you tell ’em”. For me exciting use of language can make a story.

    • Not only language, but your choice of scenes, of character, the way tension is handled, how the action drives the plot. Many things go into making a story work :)

  4. I either don’t understand exactly what these quotes are saying, or I don’t agree.

    If you’ve got an interesting plot (in my understanding, a series of events that take me from point A to point B in the story), then how on earth are you having dull scenes? To me, dull scenes=dull plot. ??

    • Not at all. I’ve critted enough stories to have seen firsthand that a brilliant plot idea is nothing in the wrong hands. Plot is just plot, it’s the writer who makes the story.

  5. That was a great article which made it really clear what the difference between plot and story are. I always thought I had a problem with plot but it turns out I always get stuck because I’m striving for the right character decision, action and motivation to move the story forward. It’s easy to throw ninjas and dragons in but telling a well formed story, that’s an art. :)

  6. Sarah Harrison explains this aspect of long novels very well in her manual: How to Write a Blockbuster. (She has written a couple of bestselling blockbusters, so she knows what she is talking about.) I have always done it instinctively, but I think I was groping in the dark until my last novel, which is coming out soon… just a matter of weeks now. My publishers have to digest the last of the pudding and brandy sauce, that’s all.

  7. LOL.
    This is why my novel isn’t really working at the moment. I have plenty of plot, but need on-the-ground stuff to make it interesting. A story requires a central character whose life and personality is interesting enough to take readers for the ride. Somehow, that character needs to have an emotional investment in something related to the plot, but it can’t be all plot.
    My early drafts have far too many meetings! Ack!

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