Plotting around the Genre Bend

A friend and I were batting quips around discussing writing the other day and at one point, we both agreed that plot can be . . .  tricky.

I ended up misquoting someone* who once said something like: Plot is the journey to a goal—though the characters may not know this or may mistake which goal they each need to reach.

In my opinion, it’s far easier to figure out goals in genre fiction than in literary or general fiction, because they’re part of the definition:

carved bookMystery: solve the puzzle.

Romance: permanently cement the relationship between the MCs.

Erotica: same thing, but with stickier cement

Horror: live through the experience and/or reset it for the next group of idiots/hapless victims

Science Fiction:  save the world/species/universe/cheerleader/big picture while either scrupulously following or deliberately breaking the laws of the hard science of your choice.

Fantasy: complete the quest that will save the kingdom/village/species/nubile royal/known world/your own sorry ass and earn you your hero card and sometimes a bonus coupon for one free nubile royal/person next door/frustratingly smug companion/magical creature of your choice.

This list isn’t complete, of course, but the concept works with sub-genres or even when the genres merge, as they tend to do, to the confusion of library budget lines and catalogers everywhere.

In romantic suspense, the goal of the MCs would be to cement the relationship  while solving a spooky puzzle.**

In paranormal romance, that fantasy bonus coupon becomes crucial.***

In erotic fantasy, you save the the kingdom/village/species/whatever by gluing all the frustratingly smug elves to trees and . . .King of the Eyebrows


Never mind.

Thoughts? Opinions? Additions?


*I think it might have been Alexandra Sokoloff, who knows from plot arc construction like whoa—but if anyone knows for certain, please lay the facts upon me, because the doubt is starting to itch.

**There doesn’t seem to be many romantic thrillers out there, possibly because thriller MCs are busy people who can barely fit a whole night stand into their tight schedules of stopping international catastrophes that generally involve mutated viruses, treasonous politicians, or greedy corporations—though not greedy mutated politicians harboring treasonous corporeal viruses, because that’s horror—and keep losing your number during those extended transportation chases.  Or so they claim.

***But if it sparkles, it’s all sorts of horror.


A Dollar To Dream On

I stopped off to get gas before work on Saturday so I could get home again afterward, which is how I tend to roll.*  I left plenty of time, which was good, since the man in front of me had a looooong list of numbers for the clerk to plug into the Powerball Lottery.

He turned and apologized.  “I don’t usually buy this many at once, but this is a big one, you know?”

I didn’t and said so, so he told me.  I blinked and said, “You take your time.”

It’s actually  gone up a little since then—two minutes before the writing of this sentence, it stood at $212 million dollars, which is approximately $142.9 million after the bulk payoff.

That’s . . . a lot of money.

My husband tells me that an investment banker friend of his told him that American lottery winners are 30% more likely to declare bankruptcy than the average citizen, which, considering the state of things, appears to be a bit of a risk.  Apparently, people who already know how to manage their money don’t buy lottery tickets very often, which makes a lot of sense.  There’s an old joke that goes, I won ten dollars in the lottery last week.  I forget to buy tickets.

It’s actually a frightening concept, when you think about it, having all that money available,  boom, just like that.

But as there’s no real risk of winning,  I bought a ticket.  Only one, just for the dreams, which naturally don’t include bankruptcy.

But what would they include?

Lawyers, a home security company, an investment banker, an accountant, a family trust.  Set aside two million each for the kids’ education.  Five million for retirement.  Ten for my library system.** 30 for various charities, or possibly a Foundation (domestic abuse, anti-bullying, mental illness education, cancer?).  Invest the rest and forget the principle exists.

Okay. . . but aside from all that.

Pay off the house, pay all the outstanding bills, make the back porch into a four-seasons room.

Quit library work  and write full time, maybe.  We wouldn’t have to worry about affording health insurance, and it would be great to be home when the kids are . . .

Maybe newer cars with MP3 plugs standard—though I’d be flying first class to Bouchercon, believe you me, and to heck with baggage fees.

Those bunk beds the kids want.

A house cleaning service . . .

My fantasies have gone all practical on me.  It’s just too much money to deal with.

Not that I’d object to trying.

And by Wednesday morning, I’m sure I’ll be thinking about new houses in five states and three countries, including  a unicorn farm outside Shropshire.***  Season tickets to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and every sports event known to my husband.  New wardrobes and home theater systems and a private library study and weekly shipments of milk chocolate Hob Nobs—or maybe I’ll fly over to Harrod’s and select them in person before swanning off to Cadbury’s.

That’s better.  That kind of What If is worth a dollar.

I won’t look up the  numbers, when it’s time—you can get the imaginary bends, dropping too suddenly from Castles in the Air.  I’ll wait for an announcement that the winning ticket was sold at my gas station.  Then, and only then, I’ll fish it out of my wallet, and take a look.

After that, well . . .  the next time I need to get rid of my gum in a hurry, I’ll have a small, unimportant piece of paper handy.

And that, under certain circumstances, can be priceless.

What would you dream, for a dollar?


*But only once literally, while being pushed into the station by guardian angel of a man who said I reminded him of his daughter before reading me the Standard Dad Riot Act.  Turned out the fuel gauge was broken, but I’ve kept an eye on the mileage ever since.

**To stipulate or not to stipulate?  Well . . . maybe a little.

***Just because I like the name, that’s why.

Random Thursday, with 76% more Technology Content

After much debate and a desperate e-mail to the fabulous and infinitely patient Sarah Wendell over at Smart Bitches, I’ve decided to get a Sony Touch.  I thought I might spring for the Daily Edition with free 3G and WiFi, but I’ve decided that it’s not worth the extra bucks.  All I want is to conserve shelf space by keeping as many virtual reference books as possible and save on chiropractors by not lugging my manuscript or Netbook around in my bag when I want to make notes or edit on the go.  Don’t need bells and whistles for that.

Besides, I’m beginning to think that WiFi is the root of all time suck . . . Wow—that sounded a lot dirtier than I thought it would.


My family is on a Shel Silverstein kick right now.

I love all of Mr.  Silverstein’s  work with the sole exception of Runny Babbit.  I’m incapable of reading it the way it’s printed on the page and trying for more than three minutes gives me stabbing pains in my left eye and a queasy stomach.

Naturally, my children adore Runny and his aneurysm-inducing adventures , so I have passed the responsibility for the reading of this book to the other adults in our immediate vicinity, in addition to Fox in Socks* and Amelia Bedelia.**


I was searching the 1930s newspaper microfilm the other day and caught sight of a one-panel cartoon called The Girls, which features ladies of a certain age and outlook.

In this one, the lady was trying on hats in a shop and telling her impatient husband in the caption, “No, I’ve made my final decision.  Now I have to make every decision that comes after that.”

It may have been microfilm-daze, but that sounded incredibly profound to me.


Twitter-training this afternoon for the library’s new feed!  Judging from the verbal staff observations around here, it’s just as well our tweets are moderated by the PR department.  Our library already has over 200 followers.  I have no idea whether that’s good or not.

The training was so interesting that I thought about reactivating my personal account, which I let lapse after three days of absolutely nothing to say—stop laughing.

I don’t know if I need to be on Twitter right now—I do follow several people, just not through an account.  Blogs are honestly more my speed.

If my phone could do anything but make phone calls, I might consider trying again . . . but on second thought,  see unfortunately-phrased time-suck comment above.

Plus, there’s a certain observer-mindset that comes with twitter . . .  I’d like to think that if someone fainted in front of me, I wouldn’t be too busy tweeting about it to help them.


Someone left a gold glitter pen at our public desk a few days ago—we had a crowd of junior high school students on Saturday.  No one called to ask about it so it’s mine.

It has an incredibly smooth flow, which is my excuse for using it for everything from initialing order forms to taking meeting minutes.  I’m planning to go to the office supply store and see if there are any available without the glitter, but if not, well  . . . do they sell navy blue or black glitter pens?

This isn’t a mid-life crisis, by the way—I don’t have one of those scheduled for another forty years.  You might want to stick around—it’s gonna be a doozy.  And mostly likely will not involve glitter pens . . . though I’m not entirely ruling out their use.


If you hover over my avatar in the left-hand corner up there, supposing I haven’t changed my blog theme, you’ll see the name of the song I’m currently whistling or humming under my breath. 

See?  Who needs Twitter? 


*Except for the Tweedle Beetle Battle, which in our household is traditionally done in Rock Horror-style chorus.

**After seven years, I’m tired of Amelia Bedelia—but these books  seriously drive my mother up a tree. “She’s just so dumb,” she wails, when presented with one of Miss Bedelia’s adventures by one of her insistent grandchildren.  “Any normal human being would stop and think.”   I believe that my mother’s secret reason for supporting early childhood literacy is so kids will quickly learn to read this series all by themselves.  Silently.