Plotting adventures (part six)

26 10 2009

pentagondiagramWhat are the basic plots in literature?

First of all, you have to know how many basic plots there are.

I’ve read enough books and Internet articles to know the answer to this one:

 It’s 1 or 3 or 7 or 7 different ones or 20 or 36.

Confused? I was. I list them all below but find that in many ways the definition is academic.

Use the suggestions below as that – suggestions. Don’t consider them defining works and don’t let them drive the plotting process.  Use each tip (or just pick the one you like best) to help you in your plotting process.  They give you a background to what constitutes a plot and may give you some ideas too.

Using the concept of 1 Plot

The single plot is…conflict.

Often described as:

“Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Denouement”.

There is a conflict, there is some action rising to a climax. The conflict is resolved and we all calm down again.

Using 3 Plots

These have been defined as:

  • Happy ending – the PCs make a sacrifice for the sake of another
  • Unhappy ending – the PCs do the right thing and therefore choose not to make a sacrifice
  • Back to front – we start with the ending and work backwards and lament the path that fate has played on the PCs (doesn’t work for adventures unless you’re really creative)

 Using 7 Plots in your plotting process

a. Version One

These are:

  • [wo]man vs. nature
  • [wo]man vs. man
  • [wo]man vs. the environment
  • [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  • [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  • [wo]man vs. self
  • [wo]man vs. god/religion

 b. Version Two

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Rebirth
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy

 Using 20 Plots to aid the plotting process

There is also a suggestion that there are twenty basic plots:

  • Quest

The quest is the search for a person, place or thing. It is just as likely to be intangible. Whatever is found will change peoples’ lives. This is a character plot. The PCs change as a result of the quest.

  • Adventure

The adventure, in contrast, is an action plot.

  • Pursuit

The basic premise of the plot is simple: One person chases another. The chase is more important than the people who take part in it.

  • Rescue

The PCs must go out into the world, searching for someone or something, and often involving chases. It is usually a physical plot.

  • Escape

The escape plot is physical, and as such, concentrates its energy on the mechanics of capture and escape. Escape is literal.

  • Revenge

Here we have retaliation by the PCs against an NPC for real or imagined injury. The players must want to see the injustice corrected. And often simple retaliation is outside the law.

  • The Riddle

Riddles, puzzles and conundrums. The answer should have both surprise and cleverness. Many mystery style adventures fall into this category.

  • Rivalry

A rival is a person who competes for the same object or goal. Each has their own motivation. The possibilities are endless. Whenever two people compete for a common goal, you have rivalry.

  • Underdog

The underdog plot is a form of rivalry, but here the strengths aren’t equally matched. The PCs are at a disadvantage and are faced with overwhelming odds. This plot represents the ability of the one over the many, the weak over the powerful.

  • Temptation

The PCs are induced or persuaded to do something that is unwise, wrong or immoral.

  • Metamorphosis

Here we have a change that belies our usual laws. The change is abrupt and for the players unexpected.

  • Transformation

The plot of transformation deals with the process of change in the PCs as they journey through one of the many stages of life.

  • Maturation

This is about growing up – and is always optimistic. There are lessons to learn and the PCs become better characters for it.

  • Love

This is ‘Boy Meets girl, but…’ The story hinges on the ‘but.’

  • Forbidden Love

The power of love is enough to make some enter forbidden territory.

  • Sacrifice

Sacrifice comes at a great personal cost. Your PCs should undergo a major transformation.

  • Discovery

This is a character oriented plot. Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life?

  • Wretched Excess

We are fascinated with people who push the limits of acceptable behaviour regardless if it’s by choice or by accident.  The characters find themselves on the margins of society.

  • Ascension and Descension

This could be someone who falls from grace or someone who undergoes a rags-to-riches experience.

I actually like these ones best and use them to form my idea or provide sub-plots.

Using 36 Plots

These are similar to the ones above:

  • Supplication (in which the Supplicant must beg something from Power in authority)
  • Deliverance
  • Crime Pursued by Vengeance
  • Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
  • Pursuit
  • Disaster
  • Falling Prey to Cruelty of Misfortune
  • Revolt
  • Daring Enterprise
  • Abduction
  • The Enigma (temptation or a riddle)
  • Obtaining
  • Enmity of Kinsmen
  • Rivalry of Kinsmen
  • Murderous Adultery
  • Madness
  • Fatal Imprudence
  • Involuntary Crimes of Love (example: discovery that one has married one’s mother, sister, etc.)
  • Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized
  • Self-Sacrificing for an Ideal
  • Self-Sacrifice for Kindred
  • All Sacrificed for Passion
  • Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
  • Rivalry of Superior and Inferior
  • Adultery
  • Crimes of Love
  • Discovery of the Dishonour of a Loved One
  • Obstacles to Love
  • An Enemy Loved
  • Ambition
  • Conflict with a God
  • Mistaken Jealousy
  • Erroneous Judgement
  • Remorse
  • Recovery of a Lost One
  • Loss of Loved Ones

Next time out I’ll conclude by talking about Plot Devices.




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