Home Forums Forum: Literature Q & A What is more essential to story-telling, prose [style] or plot?

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    • #5418
      danh tran

      I have had this discussion with some of my friends, and I think it would be a fruitful discussion to be continued with anyone who’s interested. While there are some who believe that both plot and prose are necessary in telling a superb story, I have found that there are books which lack excellence in one or the other and are still considered to be excellent and worthwhile reads. What I have learned about myself is that I am a fan of prose. To me, there is nothing more captivating than a book which is written masterfully. But, I do acknowledge that there are others who find the events of a novel just as enticing. I want to know before I go on who is who? Which is more essential to the art of story-telling, plot or prose?

      Each have their own merits, which I personally believe are mutually exclusive. Let me try and explain: readers who seek books for their prose are often granted a piece of text which expresses its contents, however–if at all–mundane, with captivating precision. While those who seek a masterfully woven plot are left with less precision but, instead, find the limits of their imagination challenged. I may be mistaken with my notions of offering this dichotomy of types of readers, since I realize that plot and prose have a close relationship; yet, I want to challenge if that relationship is inextricable.

      *Some of the books which come to mind for this topic are: Lolita, The Remainders of the Day, and The Sirens of Titan.*

      If this all seems like convoluted nonsense, then I’ll ask a more simplified question: if you were given two books– one praised for its eloquence and mastery of language and the other lauded for its masterfully woven plot– which one would you choose to read for the first time?

      Also, what about plot or prose do you find enjoyable?

      • This topic was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by MJ Booklover.
      • This topic was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by MJ Booklover.
      • This topic was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by MJ Booklover.
    • #5467
      MJ Booklover

      Hello! This is a great question for discussion, so much debated by fiction readers as long as written tales have been an art form. Everyone loves a good plot, of course, but I think several of my articles have made the argument for the importance of style over plot as an artistic element. Indeed, many of the novels now considered classic haven’t made that list for their plot lines but for their prose style, artistry, and quality of thought. Readers who read the great works for plot alone will miss most of the “good stuff”–the real value–of reading many of the great novels.

      I like your list of examples where style is more important and enjoyable than plot–I have read Lolita and The Remains of the Day, and think they make your point well. Haven’t read The Sirens of Titan. Examples that come to my mind are books like Moby Dick or Tristram Shandy. If you read those for plot alone, you won’t get much for your time, because at least 3/4 of the words in each are concerned with other things than advancing plot–but what things! And how magnificently, or at least interestingly, said.

      Would love to hear others weigh in. Hope they will find this thread.

      • This reply was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by MJ Booklover.
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