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Final Master Plot Challenge Winner: Richard Osgood

A week ago, we asked the previous five Plotto Challenge winners to construct an original Master Plot using their copy of Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots. To refresh, a Master Plot consists of three clauses, an “A” Clause, a “B” Clause and “C” Clause. Those three clauses carry the plot technically from its introduction, through ascending action to crisis and on to denouement. The A Clause is the protagonist clause, the B Clause initiates and carries on the action, and the C Clause carries on and terminates the action.

As expected, our previous champions did not disappoint.

Laura HorleyRichard OsgoodYasuko ThanhHenry W Leung, and Randall Brown all turned in impressive work, with Master Plots involving conjoined twins, highway robbers, a family coping with tragedy, and a woman with a birdcage (with a talking parrot inside it) strung around her neck.

Debates were had, knuckles were scuffed, and some bruising ensued, but after two days of fierce voting, we finally settled on a winner.

Congratulations go to Richard Osgood, whose story “Millennium House” not only incorporated the three clauses in a unique and “Calvinoesque” way, but also managed to finally bridge the gap between free will and fire codes.

For his noble effort, Richard will receive  The Writer’s Series, which includes the best books on the craft of writing and the writing life: The Writer’s Notebook, The Story About the Story, and The World Within.

We will be starting the next series of Plotto challenges on Wednesday, April 4th. In the meantime, please enjoy…….


Millennium House

A Clause: a person influenced by an obligation. B Clause: becoming involved in any sort of complication. C Clause: Discovers the folly of trying to appear otherwise than as one is in reality.

I received the commission from a friend of a friend who said he wanted a house for the next millennium. I asked what he had in mind and he showed me a copy of Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Like this, he said, but in the form of a house. Walls and a roof and a comfortable chair. Windows, of course, and curtains, in case the outside was in a mood. No trees or gardens or statuary of mythical beasts. An open field if possible, with room to expand in any direction. Fifty acres enough? Maybe not. Reserve fifty more, but enclose the first fifty with a solid fence. Let the wildlife do what they do on the other side. Let them pause and sniff and blame and wonder.

I would give him none of these.

The design was organic and transparent. The sequester of language by that which could not speak. Horizontal bands of humility and vertical slabs of mortality. Rooms designed for triumph of the force that just entered them. The infinite reversal of perspective onto canvas loafers and sour milk-breath. Passed-through spaces disintegrated as the came-upon materialized along the eye’s horizon. Quick. Turn around. Beware the collapsed, the sleight of hand that swiped the yellow game piece from the board, the Master Intellect and the incessant tick-tick of foul play. Around again.  And again. Two steps to the right and three to the left, a dense coat of fragmented images, bits upon bits of carbon dust to erase the footprints of transient cornerstones.

Conceived from the outside in, from the melted circuits of unsolved equations, from bells in sunken towers and plastic wheels on faded asphalt. The empty bottle still turning counter-clockwise, roman numerals on a white-faced disc beneath the hedge of lilac where the scent of betrayal was absorbed by the flower. My way or the highway. Rock, paper, scissors. Queen to king’s rook. Thirty floors of glass and steel condensed in one ceramic tile. Sardonic and sadistic, the exploits of lovers and warriors in neon ropes wrapped the stacks of frayed and faded encyclopedias.

He asked why I didn’t install a bridge or a ramp across the trench at the entrance. I said he must leap to enter this place but once inside he could exit with ease. I told him it was part fire code and part free will. He stepped back one hundred paces to the moment in time when the web of contingencies brought his mother and his father together, to the unpredictable deviations that kept them together, to the vortex of entropy that resulted in his birth, to the stand of flowered clover and stepped-off kinetic energy that defined his arrival. He ran toward the entrance, his momentum like the untwisting of a perpetual knot, and at the moment the house disappeared from sight, he leaped into the air.

Richard Osgood lives in a city on a river where the north meets the south. He works in a place called the Flash Factory where talented writers compress the essence of fiction from bloated prose.

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Comments: 19

(15) Comments

  1. Richard Osgood says:

    Thanks, Ethel. Never too late when there’s a party going on. Cheers!–#:-) You should check out what Zin is doing on her blog with Calvino’s “Six Memos.” She’s got some links below.

  2. Ethel Rohan says:

    I’m sorry I’m so late to this party, Rich. Congratulations! Wonderful work and a great win.

  3. Richard Osgood says:

    Marianne, there is one in the works. A collection of similarly compressed fiction. You should not be afraid to enter. In fact, there’s an office on Zoetrope called The Flash Factory where you can workshop your effort before entering. I can say it’s one of the most supportive, constructive, and talented workshops on the web. Writers, editors, and more writers. Zoetrope.com. Look me up and I’ll get you in the office.

  4. Marianne says:

    Whoa!!! That was great. I hope you have a book. I’m going to look on Amazon. I am afraid to enter these contests now. What a bar.

  5. Richard Osgood says:

    Thank you, thank you, for all the wonderful comments. You sure know how to make a guy blush.

  6. Zin Kenter says:

    Congratulations, Richard! I am so proud of you! And I love LOVE this story!

  7. Autumn says:

    Whoa! Get on with your bad self, RichO!

  8. Andrew Stancek says:

    Spectacular, Richard, congratulations!

  9. Nancy Stebbins says:

    This is wonderful, Rich!

  10. Elise Teitelbaum says:

    The story takes my breath away, especially the unexpected combination:

    I told him it was part fire code and part free will.

  11. Mary Ann Back says:

    Rich, congratulations and so well deserved. The voice of his piece is amazing. So happy for you! Mary Ann Back

  12. Sue Babcock says:

    Wow! Just wow! A little surreality, a little obscurity, a little philosophy, a lot of great imagery and plot, and a whole lot of great story. Congrats, Rich!

  13. Douglas Campbell says:

    This is brilliant stuff, has “WINNER” written all over it! Great job, Richard!

  14. Linda says:

    Incredibly engaging flash! I knew you guys would pick a great winner. Kudos to all!

  15. C. F. Ciccozzi says:

    Congratulations, Richard! Loved the story, but this is my favorite line: Windows, of course, and curtains, in case the outside was in a mood.

(4) Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] amazed at the connection between Calvino and architects like Richard Osgood whose story “Millennium House” drew me to this study. And since I was getting nowhere fast, I went back to that story, [...]

  2. [...] it is time for the “Quickness” chapter of Six Memos! Again I will be looking at “Millennium House” by Richard Osgood to see how these ideas were incorporated (my first post on Lightness has [...]

  3. [...] few weeks ago I interviewed Richard Osgood about his flash “Millennium House” – it was his work that won the first-ever Tin House Plotto contest – and he explained he used [...]

  4. [...] won the first-ever Tin House blog Plotto flash contest Final Round on March 28 with his story “Millennium House” (he won the qualifying round in Week 2 with his entry “Rapid Eye”). Since I know [...]

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