Having an errand today which involves two very long bus rides, I went through my books for something long and interesting to occupy myself. I found an old favorite: Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline. I’ve always thought this was the best of Conroy’s novels, but as I started into it again it occurred to me that one of the plot threads could have been discarded.
The narrator, Will McLean, is a student at a Charleston military college in the mid-sixties. During his senior year, he and his three best friends–Tradd, Mark, and Pig-- become involved in an attempt to protect the schools first black student; simultaneously, Will falls in love with Annie Kate, a young woman from a upper-society, formerly rich family in hiding because she is pregant. Though Will never introduces Annie Kate to his friends, the threads are still intertwined because
Tradd is the father of Annie Kate’s baby and has abandoned her; Tradd’s mother arranged the meeting between Will and Annie so that she would have a friend during this time. But because Annie Kate breaks things off with Will, and because Tradd betrays his friends to the racists trying to keep the black cadet out of the school, this ultimately destroys Will and Tradd’s friendship.
It occurs to me that this twist is unnecessary. It’s so convenient and obviously contrived that it’s distracting, and
the dissolution of Will & Tradd’s friendship would have happened anyway, because Tradd is so involved in Pig’s death.
Had I been Conroy’s editor, I might have advised him to
Either discard the Annie Kate subplot entirely or, better, just break the link between Annie Kate & Tradd, and merely have Tradd’s mother advise Will that the romance is doomed.
Which brings me to the point of my post: What other stories–books, films, TV shows, plays, whatever–might benefit from one fewer plot thread or twist?