Monday, April 19, 2010

Plot Versus Story

A quick one, possibly to be developed later on:

PLOT is a series of events. STORY is what gives MEANING to those events. Plot answers "What happened?" Story answers "Why did this happen?"

Story, more specifically, answers "Why did this happen to this person/these persons at this time in this place?"

Plot is "what happens next?" Story is why you care what happens next.



  1. You should come off hiatus and post this over at the Lab.

  2. I think Scott is posting more than ever now that he's, um, not posting. :)

    Scott, I've been formulating my own definition of story that was inspired by this panel discussion I went to. I'm seeing story now as the frame that holds the picture. That is making a lot of sense to me at the moment.

  3. Scott, I think you did an awesome post about this on the Lit Lab awhile ago, didn't you? With examples and such. I think I often get the two mixed up, and that can lead to disastrous, boring effects on writing if they don't work in tandem. I'm still trying to figure out all out, so it'll be interesting to see what people say here.

  4. My rather uninformed opinion is that plot is a general roadmap of what happens whereas story is a detailed telling of the "happening". I see it as plot being a high overview and story as getting down to brass tacks.

  5. Eric, I see it as exactly the opposite, more-or-less. The story of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is that a mutant child is marginalized by his society and he runs away with other marginal persons and finds a society of mutants on the margins of the world but it turns out that Rudolph in fact has gifts that are not only singular but also save the fascist red-suited overlord and so Rudolph is welcomed back into the society and feted as a hero. The plot is: Mr. and Mrs. Blitzen have a baby reindeer and name his Rudolph. Rudolph is found to have a glowing red nose. Blitzen, a high-level employee of Santa, hides the nose and Rudolph begins his life of shame and fear of exposure. Rudolph begins reindeer school and meets Clarisse, a young doe. Clarisse likes Rudolph. Et cetera. The plot points all serve to illustrate the story of Rudolph. At least, that's my take on it. Including the idea that Santa is a fascist, and a cranky one at that.

  6. Davin: Shut up! I am on hiatus! I am too! Tell me about your frame idea. Or move this over to the Lab and we can all play. I am on hiatus!

    Michelle: Tell Davin to stop picking on me.

    Rick: I am on hiatus! Perhaps Davin will post about his "frame" theory of story and I can respond with my own version. But I am on hiatus.