Let us define a plot. We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it. Or again: ‘The queen died, no one knew why, until it was discovered that it was through grief at the death of the king.’ This is a plot with a mystery in it, a form capable of high development. It suspends the time-sequence, it moves as far away from the story as its limitations will allow. Consider the death of the queen. If it is in a story we say ‘and then’? If it is in a plot we ask ‘why?’ That is the fundamental difference between these two aspects of the novel. A plot cannot be told to a gaping audience of cave-men or to a tryannical sultan or to their modern descendant the movie-public. They can only be kept awake by ‘and then—and then —’ They can only supply curiosity. But a plot demands intelligence and memory also.
Out of this quote comes Ron Carlson’s “Grief,” a micro fiction piece from The Mississippi Review that is one of my all-time favorites. Your task today is write a piece around 250 words that does what Carlson did with a famous quote about some aspect of the (short) short. Have at it, and let us know how it goes.