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The well-tempered plot device


Hee—just came across a link (from the Malibu List Weblog) to Nick Lowe's article The Well-Tempered Plot Device, published in Ansible in 1986, about how to create bad plots. Lowe discusses the art of predictability; the use of plot devices; plot coupons (Lowe may have coined the term); redeeming plot vouchers; the Universal Plot Generator; and the use of deus ex machina.

Lowe was previously known to me only as the excellent film reviewer for Interzone; it turns out that he was a good enough writer even twenty years ago to make me enjoy the parts of this article I've had time to read so far even though he trashes Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

He also trashes a bunch of other stuff: everything by Stephen Donaldson; the Shadow of the Torturer series; Leonard Nimoy's poetry; IASFM; Lionel Fanthorpe; A. E. van Vogt; Michael Moorcock; Lin Carter's The Black Star; and the comic-book concepts of red kryptonite and the Idol-Head of Diabolu. Among other things. So if you're likely to be upset by someone trashing any of those things, perhaps best to skip this article, or at least to brace yourself before reading it.


Anyone who can write things like Atlantis . . . that prehistoric continent that had linked Britain and the Falklands while the dagoes were still struggling with their Linguaphone courses in proto-Indo-European and an ancient bust created by an evil sorcerer way back in the mists of flashback has my vote.

This can't be the Nick Lowe with the Cowboy Outfit, can it?

My impression is that there are at least three different Nick Lowes, and that this one isn't either of the other two, but I'm not really sure.

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