Hi, SEers! It’s Mae Day on Story Empire, and I’m here to talk plotting—and fishing.
Early in our marriage, my husband introduced me to flounder fishing. That attachment eventually evolved into crabbing, clamming, and a long stretch of boat ownership, but in the beginning, it was all about catching the coveted flounder.
I quickly learned there were several types of fish and sea critters attracted by the bait I dangled in the water and not all were desirable. Kind of like plots. Sound crazy? Let me put it in perspective:
When you’re fishing for flounder, just about everything else falls into the category of “junk fish.” The most common junk fish we’d hook were sea robins. These guys will never win a beauty contest. If you don’t believe me, take a gander at the gent on the left.
Sea robins look like a leftover from the Paleozoic Era, They have legs, spines that inject poison, and wing-like fins. They also croak like a frog and will complain loudly when caught.
Despite that bizarre appearance, I always thought they were intriguing. They have pretty blue eyes—an opinion not shared by my husband.
Junk plots are much the same. Pull one from your writer’s hat and you’ll quickly realize no matter how you tweak it, you can’t make it work. It might have some redeeming value (like the sea robin’s pretty blue eyes) but, in the end, all you can do is toss it back into the plot bin and fish for another.
HARD SHELL CRABS
You’d be surprised how many hard shells go after a fishing line. In the beginning, we considered them a nuisance (they make nasty work of your bait). Then we realized we could steam them and have stuffed flounder! After that, any (legal) hard shell that wandered onto our lines was fair game. It wasn’t long before we were baiting and setting crab pots, collecting them in earnest.
Hard shell crabs are the plots that start out looking hopeless, but with polish and attention turn into gems. It takes some work to get them to that point, but when you do, they’re golden!
These guys rarely got snagged in the bay. When they did, thankfully they were small. My husband once caught one about eighteen inches long. At that size, they’re utterly bewitching, gleaming tin-foil bright in the sun.
You know this plot, right? The one that beguiles you with possibility. You’re enraptured by it, treating it like a prized jewel. Until you realize it can’t be manipulated to fit your needs. It blinds you with its beauty, but once you return to writer terra-firma, it becomes fool’s gold. Back into the plot bin it goes.
There was always a lot of excitement when we hooked a flounder. It’s why we’d spend 5-6 hours trolling the bay, burning in the sun, maneuvering through channels, and getting swamped in bigger wake.
Flounder is the ideal writer’s plot. Perfection. Oh, you might have to filet it, to make it work the way you want, but you know you’ve got a winner as soon as you hook it. It takes time and patience hooking a flounder, just as it takes time and patience reeling in the ideal plot.
I haven’t been flounder fishing in many years, but I remember those times with extreme fondness. My husband’s mother eventually bought a place at the beach, and DH and I spent a couple of decades going down most every weekend during the summer. Twenty years of boating results in a lot of fishing, and a lot of plots!
I dreamed up many stories during those decades at the beach, and I still take a notepad with me whenever we visit—usually once a year. My fishing days are behind me, but my plotting days are endless. Here’s hoping when you go “fishing for plots” you net more flounder than sea robins!
How do you think my fishing/plot comparison stacks up? Are your plots always flounder-proof? When you encounter a sea robin or sand shark are you easily lead astray? How do you deal with plots that just aren’t working—do you toss them back and fish for more? Let’s chat about it.
Ready, set, go!