I don’t like plot. That sounds pretentious, but it’s a preference I’ve had since high school. Jeez, that sounds even more pretentious, like I hated plot before it was cool.

Let me start again.

In September of senior year, my Brit lit teacher drew an arc on the board and began to talk about how every story ever written follows the same pattern: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, end.

I instantly hated it, not because I thought she was wrong, but because I could think of a dozen movies and novels that fit her chart perfectly. It made me sad, this idea that stories followed a formula, the same sadness I felt when I learned that clouds are made of water, as if a beautiful magic was unraveling.

For years after that class, I couldn’t sit through a movie or read a book without counting through the steps in my head—I still have the tendency to sleep through the climax of movies—a habit that became only got worse as I went through college.

A few months after I graduated from college, I picked up The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. Half-way through, I realized that I was watching the protagonist boil spaghetti, and I wasn’t thinking about where we were in the plot. In fact, I couldn’t figure out where we were in the plot. I was just reading, and I didn’t want the book to end. After that, I devoured everything by Scarlett Thomas I could get my hands on, and it was a revelation: I could read a book and enjoy it without analyzing it to pieces.

Eventually, I figured out that even Scarlett Thomas books weren’t completely plot-free. There was always some crisis, and the protrag had to Save The Day (sort of), but it usually happened so late in the book it was almost beside the point. I imagined Thomas writing those sections with a smirk, as if going through the motions of a dog and pony show put on for the sake of the publishers. But why is it necessary? Why disrupt a good story with this need to rush toward a climax?

I say story, but it’s not just in fiction. I saw it recently while reading an essay that started as a personal telling of a thing that happened on the bus and then suddenly pivoted into a heady discussion of a Very Important Issue. Instantly, this essay that had held me rapt became very boring. It was obvious that the author just wanted to be writing about her experience taking the bus but felt the need to stop herself because her story about the bus wasn’t Important enough.

I saw it the other day while watching Pandaemonium, a film that clearly wanted to be an atmospheric biopic about Wordsworth and Coleridge but devolved in the last twenty minutes into a lecture about drugs out of some need to be about something, as if the relationship between Wordsworth and Coleridge wasn’t enough.

Why, why does this happen?

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