In Which Minute Rice is Ridiculous

I am the sort of person who doesn’t usually read the directions that come with appliances. It’s pretty easy to stick a blender together, or a bookcase. Things are (more often than not) self-explanatory. Instructional booklets have been collecting in my junk drawer in the kitchen for quite some time, and I hang on to all of them, but I never read them. The exception would be something like Minute Rice, which totally confuses me. Regular old rice is so simple, that one time when my mother-in-law handed me a box of Minute Rice I read the directions over and over, looking for the trick. I was so confused. I still don’t understand Minute Rice.

Rice has been around forever and a day. Just make it the normal way.

I also skip introductions and prefaces in books. I don’t want spoilers– which is funny, since when I’m reading mysteries I often skip to the end, and there isn’t usually a bigger spoiler than that. But when I skip to the end, it’s to see if I should even read the book at all– not really to see whodunit. My belief is that if you can read the first few pages and the last few pages, and it all makes perfect sense, then why bother reading the book at all? I confess, this is one of the reasons why I like the Nesbø novels. You can read the first and last pages and they do not connect whatsoever! They are too complex and twisty for my simple test, and that’s the way I like my books, all books, not just mysteries.

Anyhow, so it should come as no surprise to anybody that when I cracked open Plotto I did not read the preface or any of the instructions. I was forced to go to the table of contents when I couldn’t figure out what to do, and when that did not help either, I did read the instructions. And I am still not sure I did it correctly.

But I think I did rather get the hang of it, because I created several plots and had a lot of fun. Plotto provides motion. If you are a writer in stagnant waters, in danger of staying in your solitary dinghy in the middle of nowhere, Plotto will provide enough of a breeze to set you sailing again. The problem is, though, that just as the wind acts upon the oarless boat, most of the action is passive.

That’s a huge problem. It renders the plots unusable, for me at least. The character overhears something, or is overtaken by somebody. Things happen to the main character, but rarely does the main character actually cause the action. The book is from the 1920s, so many of the minutiae of the plotting is dated, sometimes outrageously (trick boxes, seances, and evil Spaniards or something) so. But these things are easily tinkered with and fixed, and I found it downright entertaining trying to modernize the book’s suggestions. Cook, the author, even acknowledged that tinkering and imagination were essential, so I don’t think the datedness of the plot suggestions can be described as a fault. No, the only fault I found was the passivity of the main character, and the tendency to rely on coincidence and random happenstance. That’s quite a bit more difficult to write around and alter.

That lady's dress started out demure enough, but once it got ripped from her shoulder-- watch out! She'll cut you!

Now that I’ve tried Plotto, I’m going to try some different methods. While it didn’t get me where I wanted to go, it did get me going somewhere, and I think that’s ultimately the more important thing. Next up, mind mapping! But I’ll have to report back later, as I’ve only just started.

As for reading, I’ve got quite the line-up on my nightstand. Nesbø‘s The Devil’s Star and The Redbreast, and Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française are real flesh and blood books, and then I have Jacqueline Winspear‘s The Mapping of Love and Death loaded up on the Kindle. I have to admit, I’ve noticed a tendency with my Kindle. I tend to buy cheap books (Maisie Dobbs was only $1.99 this time!) or throwaways on Kindle– along with some free classics that will stay forever. Real books that I savor, or reference books where you need to flip between pages, I still buy hard copies. Used, usually, but real. Nothing beats getting a real book and fluttering the pages under your nose, or feeling the heft of a nice trade paperback in your hand. And getting a book in the mail? Positively orgasmic. There it is, I said it. If I can get my book shipped in from the UK, so much the better!

No cookies, but soon. I’ve been having allergies, or maybe a cold. Coldergies! Who knows, but it is a pain in the ass (or neck) and won’t go away. Blech.

Click here if you want to hear one of my favorite songs from the early 1990s.

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