REVIEW: “Thickening the Plot” by Samuel R. Delany

Review of Samuel R. Delany, “Thickening the Plot”, in Tod McCoy and M. Huw Evans, eds., Pocket Workshop: Essays on Living as a Writer (Hydra House Clarion West Writers Workshop, 2021): 29-37 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Delany makes an interesting argument in this piece, namely, that “plot” is an effect of reading, and not one of writing. If I were to put my philosopher’s hat on, I’d be tempted to describe what he is doing as arguing that plot is something that supervenes on a story, rather than is a basic structural component of the story. Thinking of plot this way immediately changes what advice one would give to a writer re: plot. Delany’s own advice is firmly rooted in his own specific process (cf. Connolly and Yoachim’s piece earlier in the collection), which is intimately linked, for him, with rendering in words visual representations in the mind. If you are like me and mildly aphantasiac, much of his process is not transferable; and yet, I still found value in reading through this piece almost precisely because it was so foreign to anything that I do or can do.

(Originally published in Those Who Can, ed. Robin Scott Wilson, 1973).