(A) has invented a life preserver for the use of shipwrecked persons. (A), in order to prove the value of the life preserver he has invented, dons the rubber suit, inflates it and secretly, by night, drops overboard from a steamer on the high seas.
This is just one of the 1,462 plots outlined in William Wallace Cook’s 1928 book Plotto: The Master of All Book Plots. I discovered it via this article on brainpickings.org, which, if I’m to be honest, was actually via my new pal (or at least, I hope he’s willing to be my pal) and YA author Jon Yang of jonyang.org.
Since I’m out of the country, I can’t get my hot little hands on it right at this exact moment (unless I want to go the eBook route, which I would if I really didn’t want to just hold it in my hands and flip to a random page), but rest-assured that I will have it. I can’t possibly fathom why I want to own it so badly: if there’s anything I do in quantity besides writing (or playing Skyrim, or eating empanadas) it’s dreaming up totally ridiculous plot lines that I promise myself in vain I will someday turn into a book.
Here’s just an example of some that have run through my mind recently:
Wonderchild, starring an unnamed woman who is eight months pregnant and the victim of a nasty case of amnesia. She finds herself in a world where something terrible has happened: the fabric of reality has been split so that animals have human body parts, and humans have animal body parts. The president is a jackal, and has placed a bounty on what we’d call the “normals”: creatures that are all human, or all animal. This includes our unnamed pregnant woman, who is dubbed “Big” by a talking parrot and an eccentric old wizard who stumble upon her in the wilderness, and who are now considered abominations.
But Big is more important than we realize: she is carrying a wonder child, a great magician destined to save the world and fix the split in reality. When Zoraya is born, the three “normals” must do everything in their power to protect him until he is grown enough to fulfill his destiny.
Re-reading this, I ask myself, “Seriously?” But, I guess, it could be good. Maybe it could be a bestseller someday, if it was written right. I don’t know if I’ll ever know the answer, because I’ve had a dozen more of these ridiculous, nonsense plots lined up in my brain for years now. Like The Aeronauts, about a world where humans live on floating rocks in the sky, and strange mer-people inhabit a planet covered in water. A girl named Maria is transported from Earth and caught in the bizarre war between the two peoples. She must help a Robin Hood-esque character named Joshua Shell topple the humans’ evil emperor and restore balance to this corrupted world.
But no, it couldn’t get any weirder than that, right? Could it? Could it?
What about The Jellyfish Houses, the dystopian story of a child prodigy named Marcus who rockets through school, hell-bent on discovering a new way to support life on a rapidly degenerating Earth. After he marries the love of his life, he begins the descent into mad genius, forsaking his wife and young child for his work. The day the Jellyfish Houses–the secret to sustainable life–are completed, his second child dies from biological terrorism at the hands of his wife’s lover. Marcus’s wife kills herself, and he is left to single-handedly raise his remaining son.
Or The Djarian Militia, where aliens have taken over our planet and draft our youngest and brightest into their imperialist army. Our heroine is rescued by an administrator who has taken to fancying her, and fakes her age to prevent her from being drafted. In exchange, she helps him perform espionage for his secret group of rebels and eventually topple the alien regime.
But back to Plotto. I think I want it because Cook and I have something in common: our hands can only write so many of these grand ideas in a single day, while our minds can think up a million more. They pile up on the desk (or in my case, my MacBook’s “Writing” file folder) and linger, waiting for the day when they might live up to their full potential.
The day they may eventually become a novel. But in the meantime, at least we have a place to put them. Maybe I should write my own version of Plotto?