plot Archive

Four Intriguing Ideas from Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism

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With five new critical studies of Northrop Frye hitting the bookstores this year, 2015 is turning out to be Frye’s year. Frye was one of the 20th century masters of myth criticism: if you’re at all interested in archetypes, the hero’s journey, or the intersection of religion and literature,

The Best Short Story I Read in a Lit Mag This Week: “Taxonomy” by Alix Ohlin

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The opening sections of Alix Ohlin’s wonderful short story “Taxonomy,” (TriQuarterly 146) shows how a simple plot can open into a compelling mystery through just a few quick descriptions. In the first scene, the narrator Ed stops at a roadside Amish gift shop to try to find an appropriate

The Ploughshares Round Down: How To Tell People What Your Book Is About

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Last week, I received a fiction pitch I knew I would reject a few lines in. It contained the phrase, “after he discovers a family secret long since buried.” (Or something like that.) I wrote back to the author and admitted that I was passing because, while other people

POC vs PLOT: The MFA, Chipotle Cups, and Narratives We Crave

Author: | Categories: Publishing, Writing 2 Comments
By now it seems everyone’s read Junot Diaz’s MFA vs POC blog on the New Yorker website. Even my freshmen at Cornell these days say to me, “Dan, was it really like that?” Usually I just shrug in response. I was a notorious recluse in my MFA. I had a girlfriend—now fiancé—in New

The Ploughshares Round-Down: Why Learning To Write Plot Matters

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A few years ago, my cousin was just about to graduate from a small state school with an English degree. He told me he wanted to be a writer. I had never read any of his writing, so I was unbelievably discouraging. Try a job in the real world,

The Revenge Society: The Plot Thickens

Author: | Categories: Writing, Writing Advice 1 Comment
Nothing hits the literary palate with quite the delightful punch of a well-spun revenge story. Not the third-act, Scooby-Doo reveal that a killer did it all for revenge, or even the author’s personal vendetta against some person(s)—no, I’m talking of revenge plots where the actions unfurls around a quest

Writers Behaving Badly

Author: | Categories: Writing, Writing Advice 3 Comments
  I’m at that stage in editing my second novel where I’m confronted with my own bad habits. It’s much like cleaning out your closet only to discover you still own not one but three pairs of those chunky clogs that were popular in 1996. How have they hidden

Writing Is Like Baseball

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Every March my eyes turn south toward spring training. The sunburned announcers report from director’s chairs on games that don’t count. The players work on their autographs and perfect their sunflower seed spits. Teenagers called up from the lowercase “a” team —hardly more than little leaguers—pitch, bat, and field,

Writing is Like Cooking

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Today I decided to make roasted carrot soup, which got me thinking that writing and cooking are particularly ripe for comparison. At first glance, both seem easy. Buy these ingredients and prepare them, and voila, dinner.  Come up with a plot, write it out, and voila, novel. Both cooking