Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

The Plot Thickens

A comment from level_head yesterday about "Man vs Nature" stories, where the central conflict revolves around people struggling against natural forces, reminded me of a couple of books that I've read. In them, the author posited a type of magic/psionics/whatever wherein certain people had the ability to prevent natural disasters. The world itself was rife with natural disasters, so there was a ton of demand for these services.

I thought this was a pretty neat concept, allowing for a class of people with powerful, protective abilities but not ones used in combat. However, while the books were about some of these supernaturally endowed people, the plots of both novels revolved around conflicts with other people and uses of their powers that weren't covered by the initial set-up of the book.

This strikes me as a very common thread in books: whatever conflict is presented at the outset of a novel is not the real conflict of the book. Some mystery or twist will reveal itself partway through to change the direction or the nature of the story. If the story at the outset seems to be "who will win this big race?" then later on it'll turn out to be about the people who are trying to fix the results of the race, or the lesson that protagonist needs to learn about the importance of winning, or that the trophy for winning the game contains a hidden doomsday device, etc. You get the idea.

And I wonder: is this an inevitable feature of novels? Is it particularly hard to tell a good story that's also straightforward, that's simply about winning the race, or catching the killer, or rescuing the princess? Or does the plot have to thicken from there, to make the story something new and unexpected?
Tags: writing
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