“The Plot”

“The Plot” is both the title and the main character of the book by Jean Hanff Korelitz. “The Plot” controls the action; it is present on every page. It has personality and power.  If a writer does not do right by the magnificent idea that has chosen him or her, among all possible writers, ”The Plot” will just move on to someone else.   A great story must be told. Such a story found Jacob Finch Bonner, but he was not the first author to whom “The Plot” was given.

Bonner was the renowned author of a best-selling book, but his subsequent books had not been commercially successful. As a result of this publication slump, he was teaching creative writing. “The Plot” was first given to Evan Parker, a young man in one of Bonner’s classes. The young man did not publish “The Plot,” and in fact, died.  Bonner felt a responsibility, a duty even, to the story. He became obsessed with it. He had not seen Parker’s whole story, just a little of “The Plot,” but he recognized the powerful and exciting theme; this was a story that would sell millions of copies.  When Bonner published his book, he was careful to craft something new, not identical to Parker’s original work, but still “The Plot.” After all, he thought, one cannot copyright a plot; the same “stories” have been told and retold for generations. Then something happens that changes everything for Jacob Finch Bonner.

“The Plot” is filled with unusual twists and turns. Readers immediately know that something is fundamentally wrong, wrong with the situation, wrong with the publication, wrong with Bonner. Too many things do not add up, and too many things are just too easy.  Even Bonner himself wishes that he had not been so utterly and fatally wrong. In the end, “The Plot” wins, and wins in a dramatic, traumatic, and inevitable way.

There is also a nice shout-out to author Craig Johnson when a character spends a couple of productive weeks writing at the Ucross Center in Wyoming.

Accountability, accusations, ownership, creative license