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Thoughts on Plot and Structure: A Fairy Tale

I've been writing online content for nearly a year and a half now. I like to experiment with different styles and genres.

Portable typewriter in Hemingway's Key West home, where he did 70% of his writing.  Photo used with photographer's permission.

Portable typewriter in Hemingway's Key West home, where he did 70% of his writing. Photo used with photographer's permission.

Thoughts on Plot and Structure: A Fairy Tale

If you say that plots are limited, that there are only so many ways a story can go, can move its way into the reader’s mind, walk around and influence things while it’s there, can end…if you are one who says that, my assessment is you have erred, miscalculated, misspoken.

You might think you know where the plot will go, but who’s to say? It might go this way, perhaps that way, which way and sideways, hither and yon, far beyond that knoll, the one beyond the next knoll. If the knoll is the center of a compass, and by mere degree, the story might go from there 360 different directions, then turn back on itself, start all over at the middle and head out again, from a different spot on the rose. The knolls, too, could multiply in great numbers, produced by the writer’s imagination, extant in the world of his/her creation, each one with its own compass rose. They each will then be what they will ultimately be, what they can be, what they are, as the pen moves across paper, as the keyboard clacks, as the typewriter return bell dings, as the fan on the laptop blows and blows on a hot summer day, trying as it might to stay ahead of the 100-degree heat, the absence of humidity that’s driven him indoors unless she has access to very dark outside shade often visited by cooling winds, and also accoutered with a quiet workstation.

And power. There must also be power.

There might, too, in the story the writer writes be murder and mayhem, truth and justice, lies and evil, twisted sisters plotting revenge against an evil stepmother. Or there may be a nice, caring, loving birth mother and a doting dad. Or an unsuspecting dad. Or a suspecting, maybe suspicious-looking and -acting dad, even. There could be a boy, an innocent boy with a young sister, both of whom are pursued relentlessly, unscrupulously by a woman with a long, skinny, crooked nose adorned on its very tip with the largest and hairiest of warts. They might meet in the woods, or on the streets of Zagreb, or just south of there where the Sava-Odra flows, and who knows?

Maybe the woman with the wart on her nose will arrive near sunset as the little boy and girl are fishing for Prussian Carp, catching them, bagging them, saving them for a dinner or three. The boy might look directly into the eyes of the long-nosed woman, turn and throw his sister into the canal, where she will bob and struggle, splash her arms, kick her legs. Screaming at first, she will finally swallow a huge gulp of dark green-brown river water, drown alone, sinking, floating away and away and away until she is no longer in view.

And the woman and the boy might walk together hand in hand, home to her abode where there is a fire and utensils to use in the cooking of a feast of fish. He may become the son the old woman never had, or he may be the one who later also pushes her into the river Odra, thus becoming master and owner of the house.

He might take a bride and become a most respected town elder, or he might grow old, die alone. Or, instead of dying all by himself at an old, miserable age, he might find the love of his life at that same age. And then perhaps not long after that he will die suddenly, once he is indubitably, hopelessly, deeply, madly, truly in love for the first time in his entire life, and he realizes it, knows it to be true beyond all specter of doubt.

For example, on the same day he realizes he is ever so much in love for the first time in his extra-long life, he might also learn he is allergic to the proteins in bee venom. He might learn this after he is stung by a bee working in the flower bed where he and his love are sitting, enjoying a digestif, watching the brilliant orange-red and ruby orb sink below the far horizon, followed by the slightest hint of a green flash as it finally winks out, makes way for the many specks of starlight willing and waiting, vying for their chance to adorn the night sky.

Then, a lone night worker, a little yellow-and-black-striped aerodynamic wonder, seeking the precious, succulent nectar of those buds which only open at night, might see the man as a threat, an obstacle on her path of tangible progress, and the progress of her coworkers, as well. She might dive toward the old man just as he is leaning in for that just-past-dark kiss of his lover’s luscious red lips and sting him on the cheek bone just below his eye. A quick hand will reach up and swat at the cheek, the burn will set in, the face will begin to swell, the woman of his dreams will shriek, step back in horror, put her hands over her eyes as the old man’s face grows, balloons, rounds, distorts.

It is interesting, fascinating, intriguing, the woman thinks, as she peeks through slits in slightly opened fingers, to watch wrinkles shrink, fade, then disappear from his face as it inflates. Less trancing is the loud violent struggle for breath as his lungs and insides swell and otherwise adversely react to the venom which he’d not known he was allergic to until just now, just that one single nanosecond before his heart stops beating, and he topples over onto the ground.

The narrator might then describe the sobbing woman kneeling over the swollen, lifeless body of the old man, which is lying on the grass just below and beside the concrete bench where he was just about to kiss the woman, his first-ever love, for the first-ever time in his very long life.

Or not. You just never know. Maybe the long-nosed woman’s wart doesn’t have hair on it after all. Lots of different ways a story like that could go.

© 2021 greg cain

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