Plots Are For Dead People by Jacqueline Doyle

by | Feb 16, 2018 | Blog, Essay, Microviews


Jacqueline Doyle

Who knows what attracted me to flash ten years ago? I hate following rules, for one thing, and as far as I could see it was a genre without rules. Within the maximum word count, anything was possible.

My first flash was a surreal micro, published in the now-defunct flashquake. No plot, a direct address to a character that hinted at her history. The second flash I published was in the now-defunct Six Sentences (oh the short lives of some of my favorite zines). It was my first analysis of plot, a meta-micro called “Something’s Amiss.”

Generally, I privilege mood or music or character over plot. Often my flash begins with voice, a line that conjures a speaker and situation. In “My Blue Heaven” in my new chapbook The Missing Girl, a high school girl’s murder unfolds through a chorus of voices. In “Zig Zag,” another flash about a murder, the plot keeps turning back to undercut itself. The story began for me with an imagined aerial view of someone zig-zagging across a cornfield. Why was he or she running? All I knew is that I wanted a story that zig-zagged.

I enjoy bending and compressing and dismembering plot, looking at its constituent elements like a puzzle or a mathematical equation. In my flash “The Affairs” in [PANK], four women, designated W, X, Y, and Z, are in relationships where they or their spouses are having affairs. In my most recent micro, “Little Darling” in Wigleaf, parallel plots proliferate as a teenage girl boasts of her affair with an older man. We read between the lines of an all too familiar story: “It was my idea. Not his. (My theater teacher. My mother’s boyfriend. My soccer coach.)”

“Plots are for dead people,” according to Raymond Federman. Most writers, even flash writers, may not be ready to bury plot. But the rest of us can make the skeleton dance.


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