It’s been said that all stories are the same nine plots, simply recycled. For those of you who say plotting your novel is hard, you may want to take another look… Plots are generally very simple. What makes your story’s plot seem so difficult is complex characters, numerous subplots, foreshadowing, deep themes, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (have no fear, I will certainly be getting into all of these in later blog posts). But before all of these come into play, you need to have a very simple structure upon which to build them; a.k.a. Your plot.
I’ve heard several people talk about having a problem with dreaming up amazing scenes or characters and having no idea what to do with them; I myself even had this problem! But it is simple to solve. All you have to do is take your character or scene or whatever and fit it into whichever one of these nine plots that you deem fitting for it. Presto! Instant story skeleton.
1.) Overcoming the Monster: This plot entails a monster threatening a community and/or a hero. The hero dares to venture into its lair and destroy it, escaping with his life and (more often than not) a treasure.
2.) Rags to Riches: A character who is commonplace or downtrodden, yet has potential for greatness, manages to fulfill that potential.
3.) The Quest: A hero embarks upon a dangerous journey to obtain a great prize.
4.) Voyage and Return: A hero journeys to a strange world that enchants them at first, but soon proves to be more threatening and forces the hero to escape and return to the safety of his home.
5.) Comedy: A community is divided by selfishness, bitterness, confusion, lies, e.t.c. is eventually reunited in love and harmony (often symbolized by a marriage).
6.) Tragedy: A character falls from prosperity to destruction because of a fatal mistake.
7.) Rebirth: A dark power or villain traps the hero in a living death until he is freed by another character’s act of love.
8.) Rebellion: A hero rebels against an all-powerful entity which controls the world until he is forced to surrender to that power or it is defeated.
9.) Mystery: An outsider to a horrendous occurrence (usually a murder) tries to discover the truth of what happened.
Every story falls into those plots; what makes each story unique is the way they are told. That’s where your skill comes into play.
Another aspect of plot is the Story Arc, as illustrated here
At the Start you establish the character’s routines (his daily life; who he is). Then, an Inciting Incident triggers the story’s beginning (something happens that forces the character into action and gets the story rolling). It is usually driven by a character’s motivation and goal. An Obstacle (there is usually more than one) generates tension by making the character’s goal seem to hard to reach. Midpoint is when something tremendous happens that gives your character hope. Then, at the Climax, things are at their worst; It seems as though there is no hope. Dénouement is the end. The story’s conflict is resolved in a satisfactory manner and all the loose ends are tied up, leaving your reader satisfied (or hungry for more).
Those are the basics! Now get plotting!
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