Final Master Plot Challenge Winner: Emma Törzs

Masie Cochran

Last week, we asked the ten Plotto Challenge winners to construct an original Master Plot using their hard-won copy of Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots. To refresh, a Master Plot consists of three clauses, an “A” Clause, a “B” Clause and “C” Clause. Those three clauses carry the plot technically from its introduction, through ascending action to crisis and on to denouement. The A Clause is the protagonist clause, the B Clause initiates and carries on the action, and the C Clause carries on and terminates the action.

All turned in impressive work, with Master Plots ranging from a chilling ghost story, a tale of lost love, a hairstyling disaster, a hypnotic and mysterious lady held captive, and a gunslinging Mother-in-law.

Congratulations (and The Writer’s Series) go to Emma Törzs, whose fantastic story “Reading” shows the deep bond between mother and daughter, and also led us to discovering The Tarot of the Cat People.

A) A protecting person (p. 16), B) Engaging in an enterprise and becoming involved with the occult and the fantastic (p. 19), C) Emerges from a trying ordeal with sorely garnered wisdom (p.16).


Diana had been married once, to a man who hit his head and lingered for a while in a coma. It had been mid-winter when he’d fallen, yet somehow she remembered it as summer: the ripe corn fields, the taste of sweat, driving home from the hospital on heat-shimmered pavement… But no, it was a January funeral, shovelfuls of icy dirt thumping hollow-voiced onto his coffin like fists: knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s door, or wherever.

“I see great pain in your past,” said her daughter.

“Childbirth,” said Diana, and Maggie gave her a yellow grin. When she got out, thought Diana, they’d get her teeth whitened. Precisely, Maggie laid three more cards onto the beige blanket between them. The cards were oversized and brightly colored, too bright – darker shades would’ve made the whole thing more mystical, in Diana’s opinion. She peered down at the image of a naked baby riding a horse.

“The Sun card,” said Maggie, and tapped it with a spindly finger. “Glory and new discoveries.”

“Do you read your own future, too?”

“It’s not fortune-telling, Mom – it’s more like, a reflection of the present. And yeah, I read them every morning.”

Diana pictured her thirty year-old daughter hunched alone over a fan of cards on this small-framed metal bed, lower lip sucked between her teeth, fine hair lit up like dust from the light of the single window. Last time Maggie came out of rehab, she had picked up knitting; the time before that, it was decoupage. Maybe if she’d taken more art classes as a kid… It was hard not to think that way.

Lately all kinds of thoughts had been coming to Diana unbidden, all kinds of memories. Hospitals did this to you. You walked down a sterile, pain-scented hallway, skirting harried nurses and gowned patients draped over walkers, and it was like every other time you’d walked such halls; you could be anywhere, any year, and when you stepped into the numbered room, any sight could greet you: the husk of a young man, chest rising and falling with machine-pumped air, or your skinny, dull-skinned daughter, waiting with a deck of no-future cards and the expectation that you’d enter any door she was behind.

Diana stood to fill a glass of water from the sink in the corner, and Maggie said, “Eight of cups. Release from old patterns.”

She looked over her daughter’s shoulder, wondering where these interpretations came from – the drawing on the card was curiously verbatim, eight cups stacked against the backdrop of a craggy mountain. “Who left all those nice cups outside?” she said.

“If you can’t take it seriously,” Maggie said with pretend pique, and made to sweep the cards away.

“I can, I am,” Diana said, and kissed Maggie’s hair in apology, felt the warmth of her skin and beneath it, the curved strength of her skull. It was amazing, she thought, how long we took to die.

Emma Törzs lives in Missoula, Montana, and has fiction forthcoming in Redivider, the Cincinnati Review, and Ploughshares, and poems forthcoming in the Indiana Review. Her work can also be found around the web in journals such as PANK and Joyland.