THE ONE-PLOT WONDER Copyright 2004, Michael LaRocca
Back in mid to late 1980s I was a security guard. The pay was lousy, but it gave me many hours in seclusion to write short stories and novels. However, I usually worked over 80 hours a week. No one can write that much. Well, at least not me. Thus I discovered joys of my local libraries.
Recently, I decided to look up an author who gave me great pleasure in those days. Most of his books are now out of print, I've learned, even one that became a movie.
I found that two of his were books available, so I ordered them. One I'd enjoyed before. The other was a straight thriller from days before he created "Appleton Porter" spy spoofs, re-released in 2001 in POD. I didn't know this before it arrived at my home in China.
Since I'm giving away THE plot spoiler, I won't identify author or title.
A man who deeply loves his wife buys her a hotel outside London. She is very happy there, at first. This is a fine suspenseful read as she notes oddities and eventually appears to be losing her mind and such. Suicides, an eventual murder. Finally, her husband pays a doctor to kill her.
Her husband arranged all this, we learn at end, because she was dying of a horrible and incurable illness. Rather than let her suffer indignity, he tries to give her some final days filled with wonderful memories. He never realizes that he ended her days with a living hell.
The writing was fine, aside from some stupid typos of sort common in unedited POD titles. He's obviously a sincere, hard-working, talented author. The plot was wholly consistent and everything "worked."
So why is it a weak book? Because plot I described is all there is. It's a one-plot wonder.
As an author, if you find yourself floundering, if you find your work-in-progress failing to make progress, ask yourself. Is it a one-plot wonder?
Here are some best sellers I've read over past thirty years.
During Cold War, a Soviet commander steals a top-secret submarine and tries to defect to US with it. A good and idealistic young law graduate accepts a job too good to be true, only to eventually learn he's working for Mafia. An alcoholic author and his family become caretakers at an old Maine hotel, alone during winter, and he eventually goes nuts. A US President declares war on drug dealers, a "clear and present danger" to national security. A crippled author is kidnapped by ultimate fan.
I've chosen these titles because I've read books and seen movies. None of my plot summaries are wrong. But with some of those novels, there are many more plots and subplots at work. These are novels that didn't always translate well to big screen due to time constraints and/or loss of non-objective voice.