You don’t make a better story by crapping out on plot

readingIn discussing a recent stop-gap installment in a popular fantasy series, Jim Bennet at the Deseret News offers this critique of anti-plot elitism in literary criticism:

The fact is that there are plenty of pointless, pretentious stories out there, along with snooty supporters of these stories who denigrate the people who aren’t part of the club. If someone dares to point out that the emperor has no clothes, that someone obviously isn’t smart enough to appreciate the finer things in life. You see this attitude in English departments in universities all across the country. In the mind of the professorial class, true literature consists entirely of impenetrable books that require the intervention of academia in order to make any sense of them at all. Books that people actually love to read are dismissed as juvenile, silly and a waste of time.

There may have been a time when I cared what others thought of my literary tastes. But that time has long since passed. At this stage in my life, I expect stories to include plots that are clear and compelling and characters that matter to me.

If that makes me a rube, so be it. At least with the rubes, the reading’s a whole lot better.

I would phrase it this way.

There are many ways that a story can be valuable: (a) well-written prose, (b) compelling characters or setting, (c) sophisticated ideas, (d) clear plot. Subtracting any of these subtracts from the value of the story.

a + b + c < a + b + c + d

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