2. “Minimalist” stories have been accused of both placelessness (Herzinger 19) and plotlessness (at least in comparison to their often overplotted, postmodern antecedents like stories by Thomas Pynchon and Robert Coover). As for plot, the combination of traditional plotting (beginning, middle, end, in largely chronological order) and slightness of subject matter produces a story that nearly elides it. While an experimental (often fragmented) story draws the reader’s attention to the artificiality of the plot—readers, in fact, many times have to reconstruct the chronology of the story themselves—a traditionally plotted story allows them to read passively, sucking in occurrences just as one might watch a television show. The author usually makes up for the passivity that such a plot can create by writing in such a way (and about such things) that readers are drawn into the storyline, into wondering what will happen next. That is, readers wonder, for example, whether character X will make it out of the airplane before it explodes or before character Y abducts him or her or before character Z dies, and so on. A “minimalist” story downplays even this “what-will-happen” interest in the plot because of its typically mundane subject matter. There are no exploding planes or murders or runaway juries. Instead, readers get earaches and car washes, garage sales and trips to Wal-Mart. Climaxes become small realizations about life in the midst of seemingly banal activities.
In the same way that plot “disappears” in minimalist stories, attention to place also seems of little import, if not nonexistent. Settings, although ranging widely across the United States, are “delocalized” (Herzinger 19), often taking on the generic feel of suburban shopping malls. Reno, Nevada—minus a few gambling casinos—could as easily be Palmdale, California, could as easily—add some rain—be Tallahassee, Florida.
This elision of both plot and places means that the reader’s attention must gravitate toward the characters themselves, for there is little “what-will-happen” or “where-it-happens” to maintain the reader’s interest.