Friday, December 02, 2005

Avoiding Plodding Plotting

I did a speaking thing the other day, and afterward a bright and talented young author expressed that plotting was difficult for him.

I gave him my stock answer: torture your protagonist.

The fact is, readers don't want your hero to be happy. At least, not until the end. They want angst, conflict, ruined dreams, dashed hopes, impossible situations, neuroses, struggle, heartache, near death experiences, ruined lives, and pain.

All you need to know about plotting is twofold.

  1. Give your characters goals.
  2. Don't let them reach those goals.

For example, let's say we're writing a YA coming of age novel about a 14 year old video game geek named Leroy. His goals: kiss a girl, mend his parents' unstable marriage, and get ahold of Grand Theft Doom Craft 3: Halo and Goodbye and the new GameBox X-Station System. Let's also make his family very poor.

So how do we torture Leroy?

  • His parents won't let him have the game, because it is too violent, and they can't afford it
  • He asks the cutest girl in school to the dance, and she says yes, but he can't dance
  • He bribes the high school bully to buy him the game and system, cashing in his bonds (which are supposed to be for college)

What happens next?

  • His parents begin a trial separation
  • The bully takes all of his money but doesn't buy him the game
  • He needs dance lessons, but no longer has any money (the bully has it)

And then?

  • His best friend gets the game, but won't let him play
  • The cute girl cancels the date
  • He tries to get him money back from the bully, and gets beaten up.

Now what?

  • The cute girl is going with the bully to the dance
  • Leroy confides in his Dad, who boxed Golden Gloves in high school, and he gives him some lessons
  • Leroy confides in him Mom, who shows him how to dance

How can things get worse?

  • Leroy sucks as a fighter
  • Leroy sucks as a dancer
  • Leroy sucks as a matchmaker
  • Leroy overhears that the bully is going to go 'all the way' with the cute girl after the dance, whether she wants to or not
  • GTDC3:H&G is having a high score contest, and the winner gets $10000 dollars

How will this end?

Come on. You know how it's going to end.

His friend lets him finally play the new game, and Leroy gets a great score and sends it to the contest folks. Then Leroy goes to the dance stag, walks in on the bully making unwanted advances on the cute girl, cleans his clock, dances with her, gets a kiss, goes home to find out Dad has moved back in.

And, of course, the prize people show up with a check for $10000.

Or maybe the parents don't get together, and Leroy doesn't win the money, but he realizes that growing up means you don't always get what you want.

The point is, if you keep thinking "How can I make this worse?" plotting takes care of itself.

If you've ever read a book with a surprise twist, it was probably the result of the author thinking, "What would no one expect could happen next?"

If we wanted to add a twist to the story, we could have the cute girl be a secret videogame addict, and she wins the contest and gives Leroy back the money he lost to the bully. Or the Dad, in a fit of overcompensation after leaving home, buys Leroy the game system. Or the bully turns out to be Leroy's brother, because Leroy's Dad is a cheater, which is why Mom kicked him out.

And if you're truly stuck, use my tried and true Jump Start the Plot Trick: "And when I answered the door... there were zombies!"

That always works.

38 comments:

Mark Terry said...

Beautiful!

Well done, Joe. It's obvious how to do this with thrillers and crime novels (more or less), but your example was great. The example I've given on my blog in the past was a single parent with a kid and a crappy boss, and how the kid gets sick, the boss hits on her, the plumbing goes bad, etc.

I wrote a piece I called "The Power of the Thwart" on my blog, www.journalscape.com/markterry/ where I examined this from the perspective of The Lord of the Rings. Note how getting from Rivendell to Mount Doom is not straightforward. In fact, every time they try something they are "thwarted" and have to try something else. They try to take the pass, but it's being watched by Saruman's spies. They can't go over the mountains because Saruman sends storms to kill them. When they try to go under, they can't get in, then they REALLY want out, then they almost die, then they get past one hurdle and are hit with another ... and another .. and another... That's just plain great fiction. Sometimes I think the best advice to novelists can be, "Fuck your main character." And I don't mean sexually.

Best,
Mark Terry

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Joe, GREAT job of laying it all out. And, imagine, it all came from character... :)

JA Konrath said...

Character goals are story, not character.

Jack Daniels has insomnia. She's divorced. Unlucky in love. Good at her job. That's all part of her character.

Jack Daniels chases serial killers. She searches for love. She tries to get to sleep. Those are her goals, and are reflected by story.

David J. Montgomery said...

This is excellent advice. Torturing your protagonist can be a hard thing to do as a writer -- after all, we usually love the people we create and don't want to do awful things to them -- but you can really tell when an author is treating their hero/ine with kid gloves and it hurts.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I can see that this debate could go on for centuries -- and probably already has -- but one last thing, then I'll shut the hell up.

You wrote:

* His parents won't let him have the game, because it is too violent, and they can't afford it

* He asks the cutest girl in school to the dance, and she says yes, but he can't dance

* He bribes the high school bully to buy him the game and system, cashing in his bonds (which are supposed to be for college)

These actions are ALL functions of character. Leroy's and his parents.

His parents obviously are concerned about how the violent games affect him -- that's part of their character. They're strict and they're frugal. Also part of their character.

Leroy can't dance, that's part of his character. But he's brave enough to ask the cute girl out -- character.

He goes behind his parents' back to get something they clearly don't want him to have, and, worse yet, uses his college money -- character.

In all of these instances, character directly affects the plot.

Obviously, they're so closely related that it's probably a pointless debate, but I've said my bit and, as promised, will shut up about it.

JA Konrath said...

I understand what you're saying, Rob. But do you understand what I mean?

Let's say Leroy's parents also have some sexual problems, and Leroy's mother was hit by a car when she was a teenager, and that his father has a desire to buy a new Corvette.

None of these characterizations matter, because no one acts on them.

Action drives a narrative.

Characterization is meaningless, unless it somehow relates to story.

Story, however, can exist without much characterization.

Let's look at Michael Crichton. Great with plots. Timeline. Airframe. Andromedia Strain. Lost Word. I can remember the plots, and some of the action, but can't recall a thing about the characters.

You can have a sterotypically normal person in an extraodinary situation, and you have a book.

An extraordinary person in a normal situation doesn't sell.

Jude Hardin said...

Why not go for the gusto and have an extraordinary person in an extraordinary situation? Why not have the best of both worlds?

For a protagonist to be sympathetic, he has to come across as real. To come across as real, he has to be as multidimensional as possible--as relates to story--without slowing the plot with too many introspections, flashbacks etc.

It's a tougher challenge to create real characters, but in the end I think any book is improved with characters who are at least a memorable as plot lines.

"Avoiding Plodding Plotting" is an excellent post, by the way.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

"Characterization is meaningless, unless it somehow relates to story.

Story, however, can exist without much characterization."

I definitely see your point. In fact, I suggest the same in my little treatise on characterization on my website -- using only what's necessary for the story.

I'm merely arguing quality vs. crap.

As I said before, what makes your books, and any good book, stand out, is the characterization.

JA Konrath said...

That's what makes great fiction--great characters in a great plot.

Tomorrow (or soon thereafter) I'll post about making decent characters. I've taught a class on that very topic.

Stacey Cochran said...

But all this has been done already.

What I'd like to see is a new hero character. A character who is literally perfect, has no problems, loves everyone, and everyone loves him.

I'd like to see a character who has no problems and exists wholly in a world where nothing troubling ever happens to him.

That would be original.

And the truth of the matter is creating that kind of character and sustaining interest in his/her story would be problem and plotty enough in and of itself.

Chance from Peter Sellers "Being There" comes close, and Alyosha from "Brothers Karamazov" -- but there aren't many other examples.

There are plenty of anxiety ridden, doubt minded psychopaths in fiction. I'd like to see something original for a change.

To make it commercially viable would be the trick.

David J. Montgomery said...

A perfect character strikes me as being a terrible idea for a protagonist. (At least for a story outside of the Gospels.) A character without flaws or doubts would be flat. A story which (as you say) was without problems or troubles would be as dull as dishwater.

As Shakespeare showed, it is a character's flaws that make him most interesting (and dramatic). Similarly, conflict is the engine that drives a story forward. Absent those things, the story would just lay there like a turd in a punchbowl.

Russel said...

Besides which,

do you know anyone who's perfect? I sure don't. Even the people I love, they've got flaws. Great big ones. Actually most of these flaws are why I love em. Nobody roots for the guy who doesn't want or struggle for anything. Even the boy scout, Superman, is brought to his knees not just by kryptonite but also by his incessant and idiotic need to always act like the boy scout (I *still* find him dull as dishwater but that's how his fans have defended him to me on many an occasion).

That Jesus guy was flawed, too. The garden of Gethesemene is probably a pretty good example and the only onr I, as a pretty much confirmed agnostic, am aware of that shows a very human side to this character and makes us root for him a little. Asking for this cup to pass, that's a pretty big flaw for the son of God who knows *exactly* why he must suffer...

The only perfect character is a flawed character. Or perhaps the only *interesting* character...

It doesn't mean the flaw's a big one, but it has to be there and he has to face trouble because of it otherwise... well why are we telling this story again?

Stacey Cochran said...

This is all just creative speculation, right...

We're all writers and we're all talking the craft.

One of the central themes to a lot of my early work has been a pre-occupation with evil. What exactly constitutes good and evil? Where do these constructions come from and what is their cause?

One of the most interesting real life examples of late have been religious fundamentalists who believe their acting -- truly believe -- their acting in God's will when they kill other people.

I've begun to adopt a relativistic sense of humanity's perception of right and wrong. Right and wrong are a construction of your particular situation, what country you live, what the general attitudes are that you learn there, etc.

Our mapping for good, bad, or even "perfection" thus is a construction of our social enculturation.

I just think it would be interesting to portray someone who thinks they're perfect and without flaws.

The irony being, I suppose, that their biggest flaw would be in thinking that they're perfect.

How would prosecutors react to someone like this in, say, a murder investigation? How do people in general react to people like this?

I think there's tremendous complexity in a character like this, but maybe not from the perspective you might think of at first glance.

JA Konrath said...

Stacy--

I wrote a short story about fifteen years ago about a perfect character.

If I can find it, I'll post it. Not only as an example of what you speak of, but to show how much I sucked as a writer fifteen years ago.

JA Konrath said...

I found it.

I wrote this when I was 19, possibly 18--I can't remember.

I don't talk about my early writing a lot, other than to say I wrote 1 million words before I became published.

Nine novels make up about 2/3 of that million. The other 333k were plays, screenplays, and short stories--lots of short stories. Over a hundred.

This was one of the first stories I'd written on my new Brother Word Processor, with the yellow screen which could display a whopping 10 lines of text at once.

I dug it out of the file cabinet, and used OCD software to scan the story and transfer it to a text file. I haven't tinkered with it, much as I'd like to...

-----------------------------

Freitag by Joe Konrath


I first met Freitag by coincidence. We were sitting next to each other on the flight home from England. I remember distinctly, because I was very fatigued due to the twenty-three hour brain surgery I had performed there, and Freitag offered me some Valium. I declined, as I feel drugs can do nothing but harm to the body, and I was running the Boston Marathon next week, but that did start off the conversation. After some idle chatter, it turned out he too was in the Vietnam War. He was one of the P.O.W.'s I rescued from that camp in Qang Hi. We reminisced for a bit, then talked about what we did after the War. Freitag became an accountant, while I went to NASA and became an astronaut. He seemed interested, so I spoke a little about the secret Mars mission, but basically kept the details vague. Top secret stuff, you know.

By this time, dinner was served. I ate heartily, pausing only to save a lady two rows ahead from choking. Freitag only picked at his food, hinting at the fact that he was dissatisfied with the way his life was going. I suggested he become a biologist and get a Nobel Prize, as I did, for that was even a bigger thrill than my Medal of Honor. He declined, saying science wasn't his strong suit. I wanted to cheer him up badly so I offered him one of my Academy Awards, or one of my Emmys, but he rejected them sullenly. As with my Tony, my Grammy, and my Pulitzer. I was becoming a bit concerned for him, when the plane suddenly veered left and went into a nose dive. A stewardess ran out of the cockpit screaming, so I took it upon myself to have a look. It turned out both pilots had coronaries at the same time, and there was no one at the controls. I brought the plane out of its dive and leveled it out, then I set the automatic pilot and administered C.P.R. to both men at the same time. They both recovered within forty seconds of each other, and after a cup of coffee, they were as good as new.

I left the cockpit content, but still somewhat concerned for my depressed friend. He went on to talk about his divorce, how he hated his job, and why his children hated his guts. I had trouble relating to him, as my thirty-seven children all adore me, and I wouldn't even think of divorcing any lady in my harem. But I nodded and said "yes" a lot, along with helping him get his feelings out in the open to be dealt with. My psychiatry degree paid off, and he calmed down some, but still didn't agree to go with me on my Arctic expedition. When we finally arrived at the airport, and I had stopped a hijack attempt, Freitag and I exchanged numbers and went our separate ways.

He called me a month later, very distraught and afraid. It seems his stocks took a plunge, and his net worth was just under the price of a used umbrella. I gave him three million dollars to help him get back on his feet, but he insisted on calling it a loan and vowed to pay me back. What a proud and noble man he was! I commended him for his offer, but said I would be personally insulted at the return of my gift, and I would be forced to kill myself. He backed down, but said "thank you" several times, though I thought he overdid it.

My next encounter with this extraordinary man was during my term as Senator. He stopped by my estate crying that he lost all the money I gave him on gambling and bad investments. His clothes were worn, and his breath smelled of alcohol. Of course, I took him into my home and cleaned him up. After he had dried out, I gave him more money and told him not to worry as everything would work out. I, too, had been at the end of my rope many times when I worked for the C.I.A., but I never gave up. I trusted my instincts. And that is what I told him to do. Trust himself.

I saw Freitag again after his suicide attempt. Coincidentally, I was the surgeon who saved his life, by not only repairing him, but by donating one of my kidneys to him when his both failed. I visited him every day in recovery, but he was never happy to see me, and often spat when I came into the room. I tried to find out the reason for this spitefulness, but he refused to talk to me without swearing. It pained deeply that I was losing such a dear friend, but I cared more for him than for my hurt feelings. In the meantime, I got him his old accounting job back and convinced his wife to give him another chance. They were remarried two weeks later, but I was not invited to the wedding.

The last time I saw Freitag was at his wake. He and I had met accidentally at a restaurant. He was with his wife, and I felt obliged to say hello. Just then, four men with ski masks and automatic weapons burst in and declared they were going to rob the place. I neutralized three of them easily, but the last one pointed his gun at my friend Freitag and threatened to fire. In a terrific dive, I got between Freitag and the weapon, in an attempt to take the bullet myself. But Freitag, in an unequaled act of heroism, pushed me out of the way, and was consequently shot. I finished off the gunman, and carried Freitag to a hospital four miles away. But it was too late.

At his wake, he looked so peaceful and content I could not help admiring this brave, honest man and true friend who gave his life to save mine. He is an example to us all. Though I will never understand why he yelled, "Not this time asshole!" when he pushed me out of the bullet's path.

---------------------------

JA Konrath said...

As for a philosophical discussion of right and wrong, morality is a gray area, dictated by the greatest number of people in any given society.

Throughout history, societies allowed things that these days are considered inhumane. Gladiator games and throwing xians to lions. The Inquisition. Racial cleansing. The Killing Fields.

Within certain societies, torture and genocide were considered tolerable. Even our govt allows capital punishment, which many other countries consider evil.

Everyone is the hero in their life story. Even murderers. They all feel justified.

As such, there is no such thing as good and evil. There are only laws that constantly change.

Stacey Cochran said...

Joe,

I'd like you to know, you've inspired me. Today, I went and stood on the front sidewalk of the public library near where I live and handed out flyers for a booksigning I'm doing next Friday at a coffee shop near where I live. I did it for three hours.

Like you, I've written close to a million words of fiction; in my case, in the form of eight novels and two short story collections. I actually moved to Oracle, Arizona, in fact, so that I could write fulltime. It was the only Oracle in the U.S.

I, too, used to have a Brother Word Processor, on which I wrote some of my earliest college short stories some ten years ago. Before that, I wrote on an electric Smith-Corona type-writer. I've kept the word processor all these years, and have scanned stories much as you have done.

All of this is to say, it blows my mind why a writer as talented as you had to go through 8-10 novels being rejected.

Your early work was clearly good enough, funny enough, smart enough to get published, but having been in the business a good number of years, I can see why the writer who would write Frietag's story would have had so much rejection thrown at him, too.

You were funny.

I've made the best of my 8-10 book rejection period and have started self-publishing the early novels.

I hope you publish your early work, too. It's probably as important to read as the work you're doing now that's earned you publication.

Handing out flyers was a blast, by the way! There are good people in this town.

Stacey
www.staceycochran.com

JA Konrath said...

Hi Stacy--

Thanks for the kind words, and much success with your flyers--getting in the trenches is damn admirable in this biz.

As I often say, talent has nothing to do with success, and just because something is publishable does not mean it will indeed be published.

In the case of Freitag, I see many problems, the foremost being "All telling, now showing."

Also, the anecdotal nature of the story made it a tough sell, as there's no real action or dialog. Plus, what would be the market for this? It doesn't make sense to write things without knowing who would buy them.

But then, I was young, and this was all part of my learning curve.

Out of the hundreds of stories I wrote prior to age thirty, I've sold maybe 10. But I've mined many of them for stuff that later appeared in published work.

One of my problems in getting published was that so many people told me I was talented, and I believed them. As such, I had an inflated opinion of my work, refused to compromise with editing, thought rewriting was for lessor writers, and basically spent a lot of years stroking my ego when I should have been trying to figure out where I fit in the whole publishing world.

Almost 500 rejections goes a long way toward helping a guy lose his attitude.

Thus was born a kinder, more self-depricating Joe. One who tries to help other writers. One who works hard at rewrites. One who listens to editors. One who studies the market, rather than expects the market to embrace him.

This Joe, too, happens to be a know-it-all.

But now I'm a know-it-all based on years of making mistakes, rather than one who simply thought that talent was his ticket to the big time.

Rob said...

Zombies! Of course. That fixes everything. My zombie crime thriller is now off and running. Thanks, Joe.

But seriously...great post.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Hi Joe,

I've written a million words. I wrote them all last week.

Julia said...

Thanks!

Alphabeter said...

A pal o' mine has a great conversation with one of her characters on her blog in which she tortures him as he sasses her.

http://zette.blogspot.com/2005/10/author-versus-character.html

You'll never look at 'journey bread' the same way again.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I like that idea to torture the protag.////heheheh (maniacal laugh)

And I like the comment about zombies, but I don't know how I'd work them in:-)

Dean said...

Thus was born a kinder, more self-depricating Joe. One who tries to help other writers.

Just wanted you to know that I, for one, appreciate it. You are one of my role models: if I become a successful author, I will try to give back as much as you do.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Didn't Jules Feiffer once write a book about a guy who was perfect?

JA Konrath said...

Feiffer wrote a book called Harry the Rat with Women, about a guy who could have any woman he wanted. If memory severes, he killed himself at the end, OD'ing on aspirin. The protagonist wasn't likeable, and the book didn't really work.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

That's the one. Thanks for the clarification. My memory is shot.

Jude Hardin said...

"...there is no such thing as good and evil. There are only laws that constantly change."

Which undergrad poli-sci class did this profound thought come from? Of course, there IS a such thing as good and evil. Otherwise, how are we ever supposed to find Truth in our fiction?

There will always be inherent gray areas, in any story (starting with the Bible). But how are we possibly to proceed with the telling of any worthwhile tale without a clear notion of what is good and what's not?

If we can't explore universal truths, then why write fiction in the first place? To make a paycheck? Fuck that. Might as well take the road MORE traveled and practice law. Those guys make a living at manipulating the difference between good and evil. As writers of genre fiction, I think we have to find clarity between the two.

Good wins. Evil loses. Simple plot. Works every time. But it's up to the author to create a villain bad enough that his evil will be felt across cultural lines. A hero sympathetic enough that his slaying of the dragon will real in any language.

Universal truths. That's our job in writing fiction. Anyone who doesn't take that job seriously should find another profession.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

"Good wins. Evil loses. Simple plot. Works every time."

I've read quite a few stories where this isn't true. They work, too.

What often makes a story deeper, more interesting, and sometimes more satisfying is when the line between good and evil is not so clearly delineated. When good characters are flawed and evil characters show humanity.

Mystic River is a wonderful example of this.

Jude Hardin said...

That's a good point, Rob. But even in a story as layered as Mystic River was, Evil with a capital E was still a primary force. The "wolves," the abductors and molesters of the innocent, set the wheels of story in motion, much as the serpent did in Eden. The world was disrupted, and conflict ensued.

In the end, Evil is not defeated; but, Love survives. Love has somehow buried Evil, if only for the interim. That's the universal truth.

JA Konrath said...

"Universal truths. That's our job in writing fiction. Anyone who doesn't take that job seriously should find another profession."

Get real, Jude.

Our job in writing fiction is to make money.

To do that, we need to write an entertaining, marketable book, which will hopefully sell in enough numbers to earn out its advance.

You can write a tear-jerker, or a thinly veiled allegory for human rights, or lit fic taking place during 1918, but it still has to entertain.

Art is a form of entertainment.

And there is good an evil in fiction, because... it's FICTION. I never said otherwise.

Real life isn't like that, or do you know of a school of philosophy that successfully posits an objective basis for morality?

When you've found a reference, then go find one that speaks of universal truths within societal laws.

Jude Hardin said...

I think the philosophy of Jesus successfully posits an objective basis for morality.

I'm not talking about organized religion, which largely corrupts the teachings of Christ to fit its own agenda. I'm talking about themes like love (a chemical reaction?), forgiveness, humility, charity.

Perhaps "morality is a gray area, dictated by the greatest number of people in any given society." But well-written fiction constantly questions society's definition of right and wrong in search of a common denominator called humanity.
Can something like using abortion as a means of birth control ever be considered "right" by any sane person, even though it's quite legal in our society today right now?

Fiction must be entertaining first. No argument there. And, we do all need to make a living.

But don't we need to strive for a little more? Shouldn't fiction ultimately strike a nerve and cause the reader to question issues like good and evil?

Granted, the lessons should be subtle and not didactic, but don't we have a loftier goal as storytellers than simply to make a buck?

Rarely do we find Truth in "real" life. But as writers shouldn't we sometimes step away from reality and deliver something on a grander scale, something that might be perceived as universal?

Yes, in any given society perceptions of morality are in constant flux. But we need look no further than The Golden Rule to find a philosophy that speaks of universal truths within societal laws.

I am trying to get real, Joe. It just seems that my definition of real is often different from yours. I have higher goals than to simply feed the machine; i.e. pay the mortgage and fuel up the Escalade. Money and a decent lifestyle are bonuses. Love is the only worthwhile goal in life. Only love is real.

Universal truths. That's our job in writing fiction.

JA Konrath said...

Love, hate, fear, joy, sorrow, and so on, are chemical reactions.

Some poeple cannot feel love, so how could love me universal?

And the golden rule is subjective. "Do onto others as they do onto you."

What if you're bi-polar with sadistic tendencies? According to the golden rule, you can beat your kids, and they can beat you back.

Radical Muslims feel they are following the true path of god, and would happily apply their golden rule to the world, even if it meant people blowing themselves up.

Humility? You do know that in church history, pride was once a virtue, not a sin, right?

Charity? At what point does helping others become enabling? When does a hand up become a hand out?

Forgiveness? Have you ever been a victim of a violent crime?

Abortion? I love it when people bring up abortion yet don't quote statistics. Do you know the demographics of the average woman who gets an abortion? It isn't some minority welfare chick terminating her third preganancy because she's too dumb to get on the pill.

I feel that all opponants of abortion need to march themselves over to Child Services and start adopting babies. Raise six kids that you don't want, and then you're allowed to point the finger at others.

And for the record, I don't support abortion. But I sure as hell should be able to have a choice in the matter if I'm a woman.

Is it better to do evil for the sake of good, or good for the sake of evil?

If I wrote scathing subversive literatature, then donated all of my earnings to Green Peace, is that better than if I wrote about universal truths and higher orders and then spent the money on a new house?

If you want to dedicate your life to something more important than feeding the machine, join the Peace Corp. Help humanity.

Writing is not a higher calling, no matter what you write about.

Jude Hardin said...

I certainly didn't intend to start a debate about abortion, but out of curiosity I researched some stats:

47% of abortions in the U.S. are performed on women who have already had one or more abortions. These women were too stupid to get on the pill--TWICE or more.

Other stats:
25.5% want to postpone childbearing.

21.3% cannot afford a baby.

14.1% have relationship issues.

12.2% are too young (their parents or others object to the pregnancy)

10.8% feel a child will disrupt their education or career.

7.9% want no (more) children.

3.3% have an abortion due to a risk of fetal health.

2.8% have an abortion due to a risk to maternal health.

As you can see, the vast majority of abortions are being performed in place of other forms of birth control, while barren couples wait in line for adoptions.

The Golden Rule, by the way, is "Do unto others as YOU WOULD HAVE OTHERS do unto you."

Radical Muslims, the criminally insane, and selfish pregnant women aside, I think it's pretty universal.

About all human emotions being chemical reactions: So you don't believe in a spiritual world? In dimensions beyond our pragmatic knowledge? If that's your belief, then you're missing out on a good deal of the human experience and I'm sure your writing, even as you mature, will suffer for it.

JA Konrath said...

You need to provide a link to the stats, or at least cite the study.

The golden rule remains subjective, not universal, as long as personal preference exists.

I'm all for treating others with kindness and respect. But the GR breaks down in a situation where it isn't reciprocated.

I posited a philosphy years ago that I called cellular humnism, in which all human beings are cells in the body of society. Working toward a central goal--the preseveravtion and happiness of the body--leads to individual cells prospering and being fulfilled.

The philosphy also accounts for those who do not assist in the prosperity of humantity. Certain cells within the body are carcinogenic, and should be removed (as criminals being imprisoned).

If we all strove to make the world a better place, it would be one.

But that's not how life really works. And I recall Jesus didn't have a great deal of success preaching kindness--he was killed.
As were many in his name, via the Crusades and Inquisition.

As for spiritualism, been there, done that. Faith is belief without proof. I'll stick with proof.

Jude Hardin said...

"As for spiritualism, been there, done that. Faith is belief without proof. I'll stick with proof."

Damn you and that green Vulcan blood. :)

For the abortion stats, I googled "abortion demograhics" and clicked on the first site: womensissues.about.com.

I'm not a big fan of statistics, because they can be manipulated in so many ways. I only quoted them because you scolded me for not.

My philosophy: Never drink until the work is done; get the work done fast.

As for money, I have to agree with Errol Flynn: Any man who has $10,000 left when he dies is a failure.

And I'll always remember this Konrathism: The Golden Rule breaks down in a situation where it isn't reciprocated.

That's really funny, but it's true.

One more quote (about plotting, oddly enough) and I'll shut up: When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns.
--Raymond Chandler

Lhotseface said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lhotseface said...

reposting after correcting errors...

Hi JA,

This post was excellent! I have a better grasp on how characterization can help the plot.

Reading your outline for BLOODY MARY, I can see how it's important to mention the killer's headaches, and Jack's insomnia. It all makes sense. One thing I couldn't figure out is the cat.

The cat doesn't like Jack, but likes her Mom. I'm sure this adds to Jack's frustration, but does it add to the plot? I must confess I haven't read the book yet, only your outline, so perhaps your answer would be "read my book". And I'll do just that. But on the surface, I can't figure out what importance the cat plays to the plot.

If you had taken the cat out of the story, as your outline stands, I don't think it would detract from the story.