The First Crusade for Dummies

Gasp!  I just realized that I didn’t post anything yesterday.  I fail as a blogger.  Oh well–give me a second to get over it.

All better now.  It’s not like all that much happened yesterday, anyway.  I mean, I watched Rush Hour 2 in the evening–how exciting of a day could it have been?

I just posted another paper I wrote back in college, this one about the military tactics used by the First Crusaders to capture Jerusalem.  If you’re looking for something basic (it was written by Freshman-Me, after all), and are interested in military history, by all means, go read it here.  If that’s not your thing, then . . . your loss.  😉  I wanted to put something up, and time’s tight today.

To atone for my lack of a post yesterday, I wanted to briefly discuss something that I’ve been thinking about: plotting, and the dangers of having too tight a plot.  A few days ago I watched 11:14, a movie with Hilary Swank, Patrick Swayze and Rachael Leigh Cook (warning for you ultra conservatives out there–it’s R).  The movie had gotten fairly good reviews on IMDB (7.3 out of 10, which isn’t bad for that site), so I gave it a shot.  The basic premise is that it shows four or five separate story lines that all intersect at 11:14pm.  In theory, this could be kind of cool.  In practice, it didn’t end up working out for me.

I think the main problem I had was that it was too much.  In the end, I couldn’t buy the fact that all of these people had all of these things happening that just happened to work out to be interconnected.  This is strange, because I loved Crash, last year’s best picture winner and another film that does the same sort of thing.  However, Crash succeeded because it had a meaning that seemed to go along with the material.  (By the way, Crash is an outstanding movie, and one that I think you ought to see.  True, it’s R, so it’s not for the kiddies, but . . . fine film making.)  Anyway, the only real theme or message of 11:14 seemed to be that people are mean.  And stupid.  (Any film that contains a scene of a teen boy urinating out a car window–and then has his car get in an accident and the window slide shut, guillotining his . . . member in the process–has serious ethical issues, in my book.  You can quote me on that.)

What does this have to do with plotting?  It made me think of the advantages of having loose ends.  If everything in your plot has a place and a purpose, you might want to reevaluate.  Life doesn’t work that way.  You have plot lines that never get resolved, or actions that never turn out to have any great meaning or connection.  When I wrote The Adventures of Barboy, I think that’s one thing I ended up doing–it’s too tight of a plot.  There are only about four characters, and they all intersect far too much, and everything comes full circle.  Don’t get me wrong–that plot is far from perfect (although if you happen to be an editor and are stumbling across this, then I take it all back.  The book is perfection waiting to be printed!).  I don’t know–this has probably gone on long enough as is, and I should stop now.

The moral of this post is twofold:

1–Don’t see 11:14
2–Don’t make your plots too tight.

Thank you.

3 thoughts on “The First Crusade for Dummies”

  1. I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you on this.
    Not about 11:14. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t make a recommendation one way or another on that.
    But everything in your plot should have a place and a purpose. If something serves no purpose in your plot, then it shouldn’t be in your plot.
    Unless you’re leaving room for a sequel, a well-plotted story does not leave loose ends of plot. Although in real life people constantly have loose ends in their lives, in telling a character’s story you can omit things that are extraneous to the resolution of the plot.
    (Now, that’s not to say that you can’t include things relevant to characterization or setting, even if they are extraneous to the plot. But that’s not plotting, that’s characterization or setting development.)
    It seems to me that the problem you’ve diagnosed as excessive tightness of plot is actually excessive coincidence.

  2. You see, Eric? That’s why they pay you the big bucks. Semantics 1, me 0. That sounds a lot better, anyway. So perhaps the moral of the story would be:
    1–Don’t see 11:14
    2–If you have to rely on more than one or two elements of your plot happening by coincidence, don’t.
    3–Always have Eric read your stuff.

  3. I agree with both of you. Everything in your plot should have a place and a purpose. But if your book is too perfect you end up with a book that doesn’t leave you any room to think. I hate books that wrap everything up in a neat little package at the end. Like Holes. I hate Holes. The book is too perfect; the plot is too tight. It loses all credibility. Some things in the plot should be there as red herrings, or as character development, not to show how clever the author is.

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