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I love a well-conceived "what if" scenario, and none of these books lack that. But more importantly, I love a novel that's rich with fabric of life. That's where multiple plots come into play. Very rarely will a movie capture this as well as a novel can.
A one-plot wonder is a boring read. It's a boring write. It's not realistic. And, it's a hard sell. All your eggs are in one basket. If editor isn't enthralled with that sole plot, you aren't published. If reviewer isn't enthralled with that sole plot, he pans you. If potential reader isn't enthralled with that sole plot, he doesn't buy your book. Or if he does, maybe you don't get any repeat business from him. You don't get mine.
Plus, we should be setting bar a bit higher for ourselves anyway. We entertain, but we also enlighten and educate. Or at very least, provide needed escape. But it's hard to escape to a one-plot wonder. I keep taking coffee breaks between chapters.
I single out no writing medium with this. All are guilty. Come on, TERMINATOR 2 has more subplots than many successful books these days. And it's not just "these days," incidentally. The title I reviewed early in this article is from 1979. Published, successful, well-written, flat.
Craftsmanship is fine. Craftsmanship is wonderful to behold. Craftsmanship is a necessity. But, it's not enough.
Do you want to build a horse barn that never leaks or do you want to build a two-story A-frame home that survives five hurricanes undamaged? My carpenter did latter and I can't do former. But if I had ability to build a leak-proof barn, I certainly wouldn't limit myself to barns. I'd try to build houses.
I'm not talking about weighty tomes. Times change, readers change, and most people don't read them any more. What was once considered gripping is now considered boring.
But one-plot wonders also bore readers. They read it, enjoy it moderately, then go look for something else to do. There's little satisfaction at end. Rarely big "wow" that probably made you start writing in first place.
I'm talking about shooting for five stars instead of two or three. I'm talking about richness of story, raising standard, writing your absolute best instead of settling for adequate.
I risk oversimplification here, but I'm seeing far too many one-plot wonders. People are buying them, too. But it's time for us, authors, to quit writing them.
Michael LaRocca's website at http://www.chinarice.org was chosen by WRITER'S DIGEST as one of The 101 Best Websites For Writers in 2001 and 2002. His response was to throw it out and start over again because he's insane. He teaches English at a university in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, and publishes the free weekly newsletter WHO MOVED MY RICE?