(The first in an occasional series, "Read This," about things you should read.)
If you're still hesitant to streamline your plot (see my last post here) because you think literary sophistication = complexity, here are two incredible stories to help you see the power of a strong, simple structure.
These are both very short, and if you are by any chance doing NaNoWriMo this month, they'll give you a good shot of inspiration while fitting in with your busy writing schedule. Read them on the subway or in a waiting room—sometime when you can't be writing and would otherwise be looking at facebook.
Alice Munro, "A Red Dress—1946"
Ernest Hemingway, "Indian Camp"
Before you read them, I'll briefly give you another useful way of looking at plot. I call it the Hegel/Snyder model. You have the familiar old three acts, and you think of them this way: Act I: Thesis; Act II: Antithesis; Act III: Synthesis. Your character moves from the familiar, known world into an unfamiliar, upside-down world where everything is weird and different, and then in the end everything comes together. (Sounds so easy, right?)
Can you see that form in these stories? Where would you draw the act boundaries? How would you describe, in one sentence each, the thesis, antithesis and synthesis in each story?
And also think about them this way: In each story, what is the main character's journey from A to B? Notice how that well-defined emotional journey is the backbone of the story.
Antonio Rubino, illus. for Pippo Sizza Aviatore by Giuseppe Fanciulli (1910), via 50watts