advanced by the publisher of THE AUTHOR & JOURNALIST: one, that I might violate thecopyright laws by giving the full story and construction of another man's literary property; andtwo, that I am, fortunately, supplied with my original notes and diagrams which show how thisstory was actually built up—literally out of nothing.This series is primarily for those who aspire to the novelette and the serial. Note: I do not limitits application to the mystery novelette or serial, as the principles given here apply to all stories,long and short, of which the mystery serial is only a variation. As to short-stories, I wish to saythat I have myself devised and sold many short-stories that consisted of small quadrangularweb-work plots, and have, in my capacity of short-story editor, accepted and bought many such.And so—but in the speaking of "quadrangular web-work plots" it appears that we are alreadygetting into a terminology without having even yet deﬁned our subject; so back we'll go to ourstatement that we will deﬁne plot.Just what is it?
I MENTIONED in the foregoing that I intended to give my own deﬁnition—which is one moreadded to a considerable number. Plot has been deﬁned elsewhere as "a problem and itssolution"—"a series of incidents comprising a story"—"that which makes suspense"-"the storyso moulded as to gain for the author the emotional response he desires"—etc. The seconddeﬁnition was offered by no less a person than Noah Webster, but with all due regard to thisgentleman, whose one novel contained all the words in the English language, I am going to saythat he never attempted to sell a story to Street & Smith, or to serialize his dictionary in thenewspapers, else he would not have found himself content with this sketchy deﬁnition.I, on the other hand, do not know anything about the difﬁculties of the lexicographer or thescience of etymology, but unlike Mr. Webster I have had to cope for fourteen years with theproblem of making plots that would sell, and the last twelve years of this have been devotedexclusively to the production of the serial story of from 40,000 to 160,000 words. Not alonethis, but I have also faced the question from the other side of the editorial door. That is to say, asthe editor himself I read for many months the manuscripts of plot-novels as submitted to amagazine which had unlimited capital and whose rate, openly advertised, was one calculated togive it early access to the production of writers, small and big; and, queerly enough, I was, allduring this time and for many years additional, again as editor, reading submitted serials on apublication whose low rate essentially dictated: that the stories thus secured would be in one ormore ways
stories. As editor, I grew acutely conscious of certain defects, particularlywhen I saw them repeated again and again from different pens, but the publisher's theory in thiscase was that his particular coterie of readers was not of a sufﬁciently technical mind in aliterary sense to perceive them. Thus, with a personal production of a good many million words,and a reading of a good many million more, good, bad, and indifferent, I take the liberty for theﬁrst time of setting forth that which I have found plot clearly and indubitably to be:Plot, I offer, is the chronological and spatial relationship between a number of incidents whichare themselves reactions (sociological, medical, legal, economic, etc.) between characters orcharacters and inanimate objects, that shall permit, by its intersection with a particular characteror set of characters, a story, through the minor and major crises, complications, denouement,climax, etc., thereby produced.This is a little comprehensive to keep in mind; so let us simplify it into something which we canclearly visualize.By allowing "chronological and spatial relationship" to ride as "relationship"; letting "incidents"presuppose themselves as happening between people, or between people and things; assumingalso that incidents necessarily are reactions in the thousands of ﬁelds in which humankind
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