A gal over at one of my watering holes started talking about plot, mentioning it as a process. I keep seeing plot mentioned in and around the stellar chatter of the interweb system channels, so I figured I’d tackle this one.

Simply stated, plot is “what happens”.

Not to be confused with premise, which is “what it’s about.”

I wonder about the aversion some people have to formulaic plots.  I don’t believe that’s what people object to exactly.

For example, I think of the TV show House, which is the same plot every episode—cranky doctor solves medical mystery despite obstacles.  Even though it’s the same thing every episode and the premise is never actually addressed—it’s better to be an honest jerk than a well-meaning phony—I still see it as an interesting show because it is reliable.

I think what people object to is the use of writer force to override viewer authority.  In other words, bad technique.

Plot, like light, is actually both a wave and a particle. It can be both a thing and a process.  The question is whether we are dealing with prep or improvisation.

Plot emerges from the work through the resolution of situations (character plus setting equals situation).  When it’s a process it arises from the working out of the story.  When it’s a thing it is exerted upon the story as a planned phenomenon.

Both have an underlying structure, a platform in which they emerge on-stage.  Both require practice in order to put on a good show.  Both have strengths and weaknesses it pays to spend time understanding.  Both are legitimate courses of exploration that can be adjusted to fit the project.