Popcorn or Plot?

17 Mar

Fiction seems to have a duality. Popcorn fiction is loosely written, more creative, imaginative. It’s not intended to be deeply soul stirring, it’s made for enjoyment, a light read. The other side of the coin is plotted fiction.

Plotted fiction has many threads tethered to each other. You can creatively write plotted fiction, pants it out. If the plot is well established in your mind, and you know the story well, it can flow as easily as popcorn fiction.

I’ll use tv shows as an example. Some shows are made to be light enough to sit down and enjoy a bowl of popcorn and let your imagination play. Others are made to make you sit up and pay attention. When writers try to mix these two, it never works. It always seems disjointed. Even if the audience doesn’t have the trained eye that writers have, they still notice. Just like readers do, except readers will see it more often.

Television shows you, reading has to make you see. When your story it disjointed, the reader notices, because the story you were building in their mind suddenly shifts. I don’t mean unexpected plot shifts. Those “I did not see that coming!” moments. It’s the “WTF just happened?” moments that are a result of disjointed writing.

There are many ways to disjoint your story, but what I’m focusing on learning this week is the difference between fun and serious. Any serious work can and should have fun moments, as life has fun moments. Horror stories tend to have a comic relief of some sort.

What I’m struggling with this week is releasing control. I’ve posted before that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Part of being a perfectionist is the control that comes with it. Life hands us so many tough times, being able to handle them in stride sometimes means taking extreme control of your environment. Extreme control is only needed in extreme situations, which don’t pop up often.

My issue is that I allowed too many small things to get out of my control. In the course of bringing order back into my life, I’ve developed a bit of OCD. Not bad, but enough that it has been an issue when I have tried to write.

I had dyslexia when I was a boy, and I took control of it. The same I am doing with this OCD. I set the limits on when it can be used, it doesn’t set limits on me. So as my experience grows in writing, I adapt.

When I was young, my imagination flowed so well, that I could replace what my eyes saw with what was in my head. I hated my environment so much at times, I would escape into a world I made. As I grew older, and took on more responsibility for my life, I set limits on my imagination. I couldn’t very well suddenly go fantasy land while I was at work, no matter how much I wanted to. My work ethic wouldn’t allow it.

But now, those limits I had set so long ago, have become second nature. I think that’s a good thing for most people, as the real world demands that we pay attention. But when a writer sits down to write, they need to have the ability to let the chains off their imagination.

Whether you are plotting a “yarn” of many threads, or popping a bowl of corn, you need your imagination free. Popcorn fiction requires a different level of freedom from your imagination than plotted does. Your imagination has to be on its toes, floating like butterflies and stinging like bees.

It has to be ready to instantly jump off that cliff and create a world to fly in. That means you have to let go of the control we tend to put onto imagination. Well written popcorn fiction has no noticable plot holes. It builds a mental playground so well, if there are plot holes, they are forgiven or ignored because the reader is enjoying themselves so much.


4 responses to “Popcorn or Plot?

  1. rezinate

    March 21, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    “Television shows you, reading has to make you see.”
    We all want at times to merely be entertained, to give the mind a rest
    and leave the worldly concerns behind – both possible depending
    on what we choose to read.
    Other times we may want to know, or engage in some mental stimulation,
    different literary genre address that – I’ve read various studies that
    say reading books is becoming something of a lost art, that penmanship
    and the “art” of writing letters are as well.
    Between the two, television and reading, I much prefer reading as it
    does compel you to see, conjure, and employ one’s imagination in the process.
    In a way I liken reading to an anchor, a mooring place where the
    reader isn’t visually assaulted with a majority of inanity, commercials,
    or formulaic scripts – different than being tethered to the “boob tube”, gaming console, or those “social media” sites.


    • Mental Drifter

      March 21, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      I think reading is coming back. E-books make reading much cheaper, and I know that many people I have known over the years haven’t read a lot because it was so expensive. Also the reading apps and ereaders allow you to hold many books in a small space, that attracts more people as well. You don’t need bookshelves or storage space for e-books.


      • rezinate

        March 22, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        Good point, and effectively cuts out the middle man where the profit
        is taken and the skyrocketing costs are associated, thereby making
        “books” more accessible.


        • Mental Drifter

          March 22, 2014 at 1:07 PM

          Also allows new writers to write not so great books to learn. Where before a publisher would outright reject it, and a great writer never develops.

          It also allows greater flexibility for the story. I’ve seen easy simple popcorn entertainment turn into philosophical mind bending plots, because that’s where the story took the author.

          It’s also right on the pulse of society. Not insulated or muffled like they can be from publishers.



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