Sunday, August 7, 2011

Plot or Sequence of Events?

Recently I read a bit of historical fiction set during World War II. One of the subplots of the book got me to thinking about plot and the difference between plot and a sequence of events.

To summarize it, two pairs of nazi spies sneak into Jacksonville, Fl then proceed to create chaos by blowing things up. One pair heads west blowing things up until one of them screws up the timer. The bomb goes off early killing that pair. The other pair heads north blowing things up until one of them gets involved with a mob prostitute. An altercation with her mob boss ends up with the pair of spies being killed. Game over.

The thing is even though the bad guys end up dead and thus stopped from creating further chaos, the telling of it doesn't feel satisfying to me. There was no one actively trying to catch them. Those who were looking into the bombings dismissed it as not being the work of nazi spies. These spies did not have a goal that they were trying to achieve other than wander around the continental US and blow things up. And they encountered no real obstacles, in terms of local law enforcement, blowing up their targets. If these guys hadn't run into misfortune, they would still be running around blowing things up today with no one having a clue that they were doing so.

So what this really is is the telling of a sequence of events like one would read in a history book and not a plot or a story. And what turns a sequence of events into a plot or a story is having a goal and having obstacles to that goal. Otherwise what you get is they went here, they went there, they did this, they did that; all of it without purpose and no reason to keep reading unless one finds a recounting of events fascinating.


  1. Maybe it doesn't make a good novel, but it's a decent fable. The moral is, If you're a nazi spy, you're stupid and prolly gonna die.

  2. LOL... Or if you're a bad guy we don't have to do anything to stop you because you're stupid and you're going to get yourself killed.