What’s a Plot Track?

Okay. A couple of readers want to know what a plot track is and how it works.

You can run a plot track on an object, a symbol, a character, an action. In the examples below, all from Blood, I run the plot track on knife with several transforms.

I remembered the feel of the knife in the flesh. There is nothing like that feel, the sudden point of resistance as the serrated tip hesitates at bone after hacking into the dense and meaty interior of the chest just as the drilling rigs had penetrated the jungle and I remembered the smell, remembered the feel, the taste of blood and the ear count as I took my trophies one by one. (p 6)

It is a flat blade.
It is ugly and it is metal.
In its form, I see the shape of the shank in the steel.
I see it in its perfection, its killing form.
I see it burnished, shaped, polished, sharpened. (p. 26)

No training can prepare you for the actual moment of attack that comes not with the shrill blast of a whistle and the exhortation to charge. Nothing measures death like the quick and quiet gravity of a man on your back, his knife ripping at your throat. Death comes with the abrupt heave of a springe snapping your leg and hurling you into the air like a trapped animal. You feel it, you know it is coming,  and you do not want to die and so you act before death grabs you—you hear the knife a second before it lands, you hear the rustle of a sleeve, the catch of breath as it, the knife, is raised and you act as a simple animal…(p.40)

I remember then, the feel of the machete. The more primitive the weapon, the closer to the body you have to be to kill. The machete is two feet of death, a steel extension of the hand. Its edge, sharpened, crushes, fractures, severs, maims, bludgeons, hacks, cracks bone. The machete sings its own solitary aria as it works deep into the body. It is the hand hardened in fire and bathed in blood, tempered until it chants its own oratorio—this is death, this is the weapon of weapons just once removed from the stone, the sound of metal cracking bone is the song of the machete. (p.141)

He smiles. He turns. I watch him leave and now I see the winged back of a disciple of death—striding sure and straight and for a moment I feel like a god reshaping the blunted edge of humanity into a machete. It is a good change. (p.215)

The plot track doesn’t run just on the objects, but transforms of the object and its verbs. So you get metaphors of the blade in the verbs—cut, slice, hack, hew, stab.

I felt fragments of dirt, rock slice into my neck (p. 154)

In my hand there is the hard cover of a book and the book is Notre Dame des Fleurs and I grasp it, slice left then right and there is a guttural grunt of a throat seizing, that oh so familiar and sweet sound of death…(p. 174)

I watch the men, bare chested and tattooed in the cell block across from me and I feel the slice of the knife again and that first spurt of blood as the tissue yields to the sharpness of metal and I look down at my hand, there is a blade, sharp edged and tainted with blood and it lies buried deep in the cauldron of molten copper spewing like fireworks from the tortured earth and under the knife I see a hand that reaches up to me and I kneel, touch the molten flesh, expecting the skin to pull loose from the bone, but the flesh holds and I pull a man from the molten copper sea and a small brown hand erupts from the seething mass and he is intact except for his left ear where a gold coin with an eagle stamped on it dangles from a tab of skin above the bleeding gash where the ear should be…(p.182)

And you find the knife/blade metaphors in dialogue:

Look. You know how to fence?
Fence? Wow, yeah! My dad says a man’s gotta know how to use a bow and arrow and he says if I don’t learn l’escrime, he’ll kick my ass.
He calls it l’escrime, huh?
Isn’t that right?
That’s right. I made Nationals last year, Hank. In sabre. You know what sabre is?
A sword, I said.
He laughed.
You don’t call it a sword, Hank. That’s what the bushwas call it. It’s a weapon. You learn to use a weapon and no son of a bitch is gonna punk your ass like those shit heads tried.
You didn’t use a weapon on those guys, Cain.
Oh yeah. I used the best weapon.
I didn’t see one.
Fear, he said. You get’em pissing in their pants and they’re shitting in their heads and they don’t give you a hard time. (p.56)

You build a plot track: on the object and the transforms of the object—knife, blade, machete, book cover, sabre, escrime.

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