Writing a novel is like painting. Only… you don’t have paint, you don’t have a brush, and you don’t have any artistic skill at all. You just have your brain, the alphabet, and a big ole blank page.
Yup. We think that pretty much sums it up.
We’ve already talked a lot about structural genre and what it means for your story. And we hope you’re enjoying those articles and are finding them valuable. In last week’s Writing A Novel blog post, we looked deeper into arch-plot and mini-plot, and discussed what they mean – from a more detailed perspective – for you and your book.
That’s the reason we’re going to be looking into the anti-plot structural genre today.
There’s not a great deal to say about this structural genre, predominantly because of its ever-open nature. It’s completely different to the other two genres – which focus on progressing the narrative in a way that explores the journey of the protagonist – and that’s because it doesn’t focus on anything in particular at all.
So… What Is Anti-Plot?
Anti-plot is a weird old discussion topic…
It’s the name given to a story that, well, isn’t a story. How isn’t it a story? Because there are no requirements/selling points that must exist to make it one. It’s creativity’s version of a free-for-all.
The other two types of structural genre focus on the way the story is told. They explore the use of internal vs external conflict to tell a tale that’s either plot-driven or character-driven. With anti-plot, that’s not the case. It can’t be.
There’s no story to drive.
There are no conventions or plot points. No protagonist or antagonist. No definitive conflict or purpose. An anti-plot is exactly what it says on the tin. There is no story because there is no plot. That’s why anti-plot is rarely seen in the professional industry. What’s seen even less is an anti-plot that works.
The Main Focal Point
The main point that’s worth noting is this: anti-plot lacks four of the main things that make a story a story. The conflict, the protagonist, a closed ending, and an endured change.
There is no set-in-stone protagonist – it might follow one person or group of people more than others, but they’ll never be singled out as a protagonist in the same ways they are in the other structural genres. The characters have a free reign in this type of book. It’s like a mishmash; a commentary that the reader follows from point A to point B.
And there’s another thing: those two points can be wherever the writer wants them to be. There’s no cause for a linear structure (or any type of structure, for that matter). The writer can do whatever they like, whenever they want to do it. Want to skip ahead twenty years with no logical reason and/or clear-cut transition? Go for it.
On top of that, the characters don’t have to endure any sort of change. There’s no conflict, remember? Therefore, they don’t need to face any challenges or endure any change. They just exist for the reader and are there to look in on. It can end wherever it wants to as well. There’s no conflict to close, so the writer need not pay attention to the pacing – or the ending at all.
Sounds like paradise, right? You get to write whatever you want, however you want to write it. You don’t have to worry about creating compelling conflict or painting a strong backstory for your main players. It’s every writer’s dream.
Well… not quite.
A Good Anti-Plot Is Incredibly Hard To Pull Off
And a great one is harder still.
You might think it sounds like a lot of fun (and that’s because it would be), but it’s also very tough to do correctly. It may be a fractured, jumbled mess that doesn’t have any sort of meaningful structure or purpose, but those are the exact things that make it so difficult.
Think about it logically.
If you had no main character’s to rely on, no real relationships to build, no antagonists to describe, no conflict to pace, no definitive ending in sight – what on earth would you do? The writing would feel pointless. You’d feel lost and alone. Things would get really complex.
Anti-plots are a lot like social commentaries. They’re most effectively used to tell tales that people cannot justify with traditional story form. You know: the Holocaust, World Wars, Pearl Harbour – all of those terrible, but wholly interesting historical events.
When people base fiction on those things (or things of a similar nature), it cannot be reasonably justified with typical story form. It’s just too much. And that’s where anti-plots sweep down in all their glory. By using an anti-plot structure to paint those tales, a writer can avoid all of the intricate stuff and focus on the things that matter most – and all in a way that makes the reader know the thing they’re reading is based on commentary, not pure art.
Don’t Be Afraid To Explore
We believe in exploration!
We believe that you should try a handful of stories that are made up of various content and structural genre types. You need to try your hand at many different types of writing; you need to attempt wielding many different tools. That’s where you find the thing you’re best at.
Get out there and explore the wonderful world of writing. And by get out there, we mean don’t leave your house. And by wonderful world of writing, we mean the fridge.
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