What is ‘terrain’, in storytelling?
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This part will mostly help those who have difficulty in understanding what ‘plot’ means. I know it is a bit shaky when we talk about plot, but most often, I have seen people using this term interchangeably for theme or action. No one says it aloud, though, but everyone is a bit confused if asked; what is plot?
If you think in terms of terrain, it is easy to get hold of the concept and edit your story accordingly.
Every piece of artistic junk we write in the conscious attempt to hit the desired word-length, each day, requires a terrain, a ground, a plot.
The word ‘plot’ is often interpreted, re-interpreted, and misinterpreted so many times in the history of creative writing classes that it is much difficult to say when it is misinterpreted. God! Every other definition of plot sounds so correct and up-to date that is hard to remember what plot actually means while writing a story.
Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, stands for following the characters into their lives and destinies rather than delineating a plot. What emerges finally becomes a book, with a ‘plot’. If you are a writer, and not a student of writing anymore, you don’t need to doom yourself with a definition of plot or concern towards it. What you need is a subjective involvement with the story. However, when you are in the proofing stage of your book or story, keeping a sign in mind that the story should ring true to the reader, always helps. In order for the story to ring true and authentic, there should be an inner connection between what happens in the form of actions, dialogues, characters, and themes. This inter-connectivity is the ‘terrain’ of a story. This is the ground, upon which the story stands.
There is no simplified definition for it and it is not taught in any writing courses, as of yet. The only morale a writer should be concerned about it economy of words. You can find a tiny connection between economy of words and ‘terrain’.
Each character, action, dialogue, and scene should contribute in the forward movement of the story. If this happens, the terrain of your story is proper and stable. A single adjective word extra might ruin your story, because it will lose its ground and when the reader asks, why that word or character is there, the earth may start shaking. This is a loose terrain.
Never write anything that does not help the story move forward. With this you can solve the problem of plot and stabilize your terrain.
Next: Trigger of storytelling.
Anu Lal is the author of Wall of Colors and Other Stories. He lives in Kerala, South India. He blogs at The Indian CommentatorYou can catch up with him in Facebook too.