ReadySteadyBlog

Steven Shaviro has Some thoughts on “character”:


For me, this is a key to understanding genre fiction — or maybe I should just say, fiction in general. Plot is overrated. SF novels and comics and movies and the like where it’s all about the plot, how well it is put together, how if a gun is on the table in Act One, it has to be used in Act Three, and so on, bore the hell out of me. The better and more cleverly it is put together, the more it seems to me to be just a dumb, creaky mechanism which provides neither pleasure nor insight. I know that lots of people (readers/viewers as well as creators) get off on carefully crafted plots; but such things do nothing for me.

Readers Comments

  1. I agree.

    I despise a blatant plot.

    Sometimes I'm tricked into reading books like The Davinci Code by Dan Brown or Tell No One by Harlan Coben, and even though I race through them with enjoyment, I always feel cheapened afterwards.

  2. I agree, too Good post.

  3. Though isn't all this either or stuff itself a bit tedious. Dosteovsky, Shakespeare, Camus, Kafka, etc have a plot or structure onto which is placed all manner of intellectual flesh. Though even the separation of art into components is itself artifical. It's also not as if a Dan Brown would be writing wonderful stuff if he was less plot concerned. I haven't read him but he is presumably writing at his level. It wouldn't become a superior level if he had a separate aesthetic. His art is a reflection of himself.
    Does one wish there was less plot in Macbeth?

  4. The reason I throw aside books that concede to genre devices (such as plot) is because these constitute literature's "intellectual flesh". I want the elemental to break through the skin of paper. And, of course, a distinction needs to be made between "plot" and "narrative".

  5. Is it that when literature is fitting into a ready made form such as the spy novel, then its dead?- Pre-formed decisions have taken place of the possibility of the autonomous work finding its own form? I don't read any genre works, though I'm not sure it's because of the genre aspect so much as almost inevitably all the individual works within that canon will be relatively uninteresting. Though what if a genius did write within a form such as the detective? Detectives, the world of espionage, etc do exist, & if a genius happened to have lived within these realms...

    How about the structural form of the tragedy? Though there is still a great looseness about getting from A to B, is the funnelling process towards the end-point falsely constraining, or a helpful vehicle into which the artist can pour his self? You are told immediately that Hamlet or Macbeth are tragedies, & so will inevitably head in a broad direction. The work's purpose isn't merely tied to the doomed finale
    I might be getting too far from whatever the issue is at hand here, & the questions too broad.

  6. Pacifist Viking Friday 25 April 2008

    I very much enjoy plot, but here's what I appreciate in that quote: he doesn't universalize and tell everybody that plot is just stupid, but admits its his personal perspective. "bores the hell out of me," "it seems to me," "such things do nothing for me.'

    That allows for a discussion: Shaviro provides personal preferences, which can be discussed, rather than prescribing a rule for everybody (he doesn't tell me I should ignore plot if I don't want to).

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