Welcome to (unofficial) Plot week here at Eight Ladies Writing. Jilly started things off on Sunday talking about plot preferences (I’m fond of an external mystery plot) and then Jeanne continued on Tuesday with plot peeves (the big-misunderstanding is my peeve). Today we’re talking about what I think of, for lack of a better term, as plot tangles–cases where the author throws in everything including the kitchen sink.
A few weeks back I was talking with a Random-Guy-on-the-Internet about a book we had both read multiple times and enjoyed. He had just finished a re-read of the book two days before and wanted to share some thoughts on the story.
Right off the bat a problem became obvious when he said “I can’t believe so-and-so was the murderer” (the story was a mystery). The problem? So-and-so was not the murderer. A quick rifling through the book ensued and the correct culprit was identified, but the question remained: How could someone forget who the murderer was in a book that they had just read?
The book was popular.
The book was interesting (after all, we’d both read it more than once).
The writing was strong.
So, what was the issue?
A deconstruction of the story ensued and the consensus was that the story just had too much plot. There were so many sub-storylines and supporting characters that the main plot was lost in the weeds.
Mystery stories are notorious for containing red-herrings. It’s pretty much a requirement that there be an assortment of individuals and a fair amount of Is it him? Is it her? shadowing with false trails and irrelevant bits of information thrown in to cloud the issue and make solving the puzzle challenging for the reader.
There are limits though.
The story in question had seven potential red-herring suspected murderers, all with complicated plots and details and whatnot. They were interesting, and it was all woven together with great skill by the author, but the result was that the main story was overwhelmed and the actual murderer was lost in the confusion.
If the book was a garden I’d have pulled out my pruning shears and gone to town.
I’m pretty sure there were enough characters and plot points for at least two books.
But maybe that’s just me (and the Random-Guy-on-the-Internet).
So, how do you feel about complicated stories/plots? Are you a “the more the better” kind of reader or do you prefer your stories to be pruned a bit?