The Point of a Work

When I decided to do this essay collection of mine, I decided I wanted to cover Mark Twain's list of things a writer should and should not do. The first eleven are things a writer shouldn't do in their writing while the last of the eighteen are things that a writer should do. Use of good grammar is number seventeen on the list, but I felt it was the most important to cover, not to mention the one I struggle with the most so it came before the others. Point one is "A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere."

We have here what may amount to being a sensitive subject matter for some people. There are people out there who believe that you don't need actual plot to make a story. However, Wikipedia says this on its "Plot (Narrative)" page currently. "Plot is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story..." I don't know of any story out there that doesn't have some kind of event going on.

There are two terms used in writing called plot driven and character driven. The term plot driven is also known as action driven. Some stories are more plot driven then they are character driven, while other stories are more character driven then they are plot driven. Some stories have a nice balance between the two. The question is, is it possible to have a story that is only plot driven and a story that is only character driven.

The answer at first glance is yes. If you write a story about the rain filling a gully then you don't have any characters but lots of plot. If you write a story about a man doing nothing, then you have no plot. Except the thing is, the rain and the gully become the characters in the first story, and doing nothing is the plot point of the second story.

And yet, I am going to say neither of these things are what Mark Twain was talking about. You can have a story with lots of random plot points and not have a good story. You can also have a story that is character driven that isn't a good story. It all comes down to what the point the writer is trying to get across is, the main idea.

There is a particular genre that people may think has no point at all and I blame works that of that genre that actually have no point to them from bringing this misconception about. This genre is slice-of-life, a genre I absolutely adore but feel is almost if not as hard to write as the crack fic genre. Well written slice-of-life actually exemplifies Mark Twain's first rule.

This is because well written slice-of-life will pick its subject matter from the very beginning and will focus on that main idea. Compared to other stories, slice-of-life focus on character driven stories rather then plot driven ones, but plot does crop up in small amounts. This means that the reader is able to easily pick out what the main idea is, while with plot driven stories of other genres it can be a tad harder to do.

Of course, the poorly written slice-of-life will also show why Mark Twain's first rule is oh so important. The poorly written slice-of-life leaves the reader asking what the point of the story was. This is because a writer randomly throws things in rather then thinking about focusing on their main point. That, or their point of focus is way to narrow.

For example, a story can't simply focus on romance. It happens to need setting and well defined characters to make it enjoyable, otherwise it is words on the page. Other genre suffer from this less because romance is a rather broad genre, while other genres are more defined in what they can or can't contain. Some like the mystery genre are built around coming up with complex ideas.

One thing that is true though is that while a story will either be plot driven, character driven or a combination of both. There will always be some sort of overlap between the two no matter what kind of story you write. That also said, if you have no goal to accomplish something, your story will ramble. Romance though is not a goal, it is a genre.