Fishing for Plots by Mae Clair

Early in our marriage, my husband introduced me to flounder fishing. That attachment eventually evolved into crabbing, clamming, and a long stretch of boat ownership, but in the beginning, it was all about catching the coveted flounder.

Here’s my hubby, filleting the day’s catch at a bay front apartment we rented with his family in Maryland;


I’d never been fishing in my life the first time he took me out. I learned early on there were several types of fish and sea critters apt to go after the bait I dangled into the water, but not all were desirable. Those that weren’t, always got tossed back into the water.

Recently, I started thinking about fish in terms of plot. Sound crazy? Let me put it in perspective:


This is a Sea Robin
Photo courtesy of Versageek via Wikimedia Commons

When you’re fishing for flounder, just about everything else falls into the category of “junk fish.” The most common junk fish we’d hook were sea robins. These guys will never win a beauty contest. If you don’t believe me, take a gander at the gent on the left.

Sea robins look like a leftover from the Paleozoic Era, They have legs, spines that inject poison, and wing-like fins. They also croak like a frog and will complain loudly when caught.

Despite that bizarre appearance, I always thought they were intriguing. They have pretty blue eyes, an opinion not shared by my husband.

Junk plots are much the same. Pull one from your writer’s hat and you’ll quickly realize no matter how you tweak it, you can’t make it work. It might have some redeeming value (like the sea robin’s pretty blue eyes) but, in the end, all you can do is toss it back into the plot bin and fish for another.

You’d be surprised how many hard shells go after a fishing line. In the beginning, we considered them a nuisance (they make nasty work of your bait). Then we realized we could steam them and have stuffed flounder!  After that, any (legal) hard shell that wandered onto our lines was fair game. It wasn’t long before we were baiting and setting crab pots, collecting them in earnest.

Hard shell crabs are the plots that start out looking hopeless, but with polish and attention turn into gems. It takes some work to get them to that point, but when you do, they’re golden!

These guys rarely got snagged in the bay. When they did, thankfully they were small. My husband once caught one that was about eighteen inches long. At that size, they’re utterly bewitching, gleaming tin-foil bright in the sun. 

You know this plot, right? The one that beguiles you with possibility. You’re enraptured by it, treating it like a prized jewel. Until you realize it can’t be manipulated to fit your needs. It blinds you with its beauty, but once you return to writer terra-firma, it becomes fool’s gold. Back into the plot bin it goes.

There was always a lot of excitement when we hooked a flounder. It’s why we’d spend 5-6 hours tooling around the bay, burning in the sun, maneuvering through channels and getting swamped in bigger wake.

Flounder is the ideal writer’s plot. Perfection. Oh, you might have to filet it, to make it work the way you want, but you know you’ve got a winner as soon as you hook it.

I haven’t been flounder fishing in many years, but I remember those times with extreme fondness. My husband’s mother eventually bought a place at the beach, and hubby and I spent a couple of decades going down most every weekend during the summer.

This is a picture of the family pontoon boat moored at his mom’s place in Delaware. She has since sold, and although we hung onto the boat for many years afterward, its life finally expired. Salt water is extremely hard on a boat!

PontoonTwenty years of boating results in a lot of tales–and a lot of fish, LOL. I also did a lot of plotting on this pontoon and dreamed up some wonderful stories and characters. Here’s hoping you find more flounder than sea robins when you go fishing for plots!

How do you think my comparisons stack up? Do you recognize any of these fish/plots?

12 thoughts on “Fishing for Plots by Mae Clair

  1. I like your comparisons Mae…it puts an entirely new look on plotting for me 🙂 As for fishing…it’s always fun. I used to go with my dad and then when I married with my hubs. Now when I’m fishing I’ll be seeing it in an entirely new light 🙂 HAPPY FISHING/PLOTTING!


    • Hi, Christine! Thanks for dropping by. I agree that fishing is a heck of a lot of fun (and can be really relaxing). I never thought it would be something I’d latch onto, but I loved all those excursions. Even when I didn’t catch anything, LOL.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂


  2. How cleaver Mae! but then I expect nothing less lol And how appropriate I am fishing for plot in the most desperate fashion casting my rod and looking at what I catch and throwing it back again and again and again…


    • Hi, Sue! Sounds like you’re catching a lot of sea robins at the moment if you keep throwing that plot line back in. Or maybe you’ve got some sand sharks in there too. 😀 I’ll cross my fingers you hook a flounder soon. I’m struggling with a hard shell crab on my next one, hoping I can manipulate it into a prize catch,

      I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I had a lot of fun with it and it brought back many wonderful memories of weekends at the shore fishing!


    • I like your take on a day spent fishing, Cd. There were plenty of times I simply kicked back and relaxed (and
      did a lot of plotting) rather than fiddling with all that messy bait. A day on the water is good no matter how you spend it! Thanks for commenting 🙂


  3. Great comparisons, Mae. I’ve never really enjoyed fishing, but do love the outdoors and being near the water. I can say this, I’ll look at story plot quite the same.


    • Hi, Sheri! I found your comment! 😀 Thanks for checking out my post and many thanks for the Wonderful Team Membership Reading Award. You’re such a wonderful friend!


  4. What a ingenious way of breaking down the different kinds of things your fishing lines snagged to plot lines that get snagged in a writer’s imagination. So true, Mae. If we could easily identify the little bits of story that pop up in our head to some picture chart or categorizing so that we could more easily know which ones where real flounders– we’d quickly know which to keep and prepare as a delicious meal and which to throw back out– we’d be golden, wouldn’t we? How cool we get a pic of your hubby and fishing experiences from your past too! A very clever post, my friend. Fishing for plots- indeed! Loved this!


    • Hi, Venice! Always great to see you here! I had a lot of fun with this post, especially thinking about all those fish hubby and I reeled in over the years. Of course, I’ve written a lot of stories too, and some were definitely of the sea robin variety, needing to be tossed back in the bin.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post! I know how much you love the seaside. We definitely have that in common!


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