PLOT   (only nine plots)

In any good plot, the protagonist has a problem. The plot should have the following elements:

protagonist has a problem

Protagonist tries to solve problem

protagonist fails

problem gets worse

protagonist reaches into self and finds solution

problem solved

validation (make it clear)


The Nine Plots:

a.Character vs. Character (people, individuals)

b.Character vs. Self

- am I crazy? (internal conflict)

- a person has to be able to live with self

c.Character vs. the Gods

- how has man lived? (culturally, historically)

- violation of taboos, etc.

d.Character vs. Machine (impact of technology and mans' effort, etc.).  Classic example: 2001 Space Odyssey.  The question is:  Who comes out on top?

e.Man vs. Fate (Destiny)

- Overcoming a prophecy (can you beat your fate or circumstances you find yourself in)

- coping with a particular (hostile?) environment

f.Character vs. The Unknown

- (Star Trek, go out into the unknown where someone, thing wants to kill you)

- sometimes referred to as a ‘Quest story’

- Protagonist has limited life

- running out of time (DOA - Dennis Quade)

- Who wants to kill me?  and why?

g.Character vs. Society or Culture

- conflict with societal values and societal prejudices

- the willingness of an individual to go against the conventions of society

h.Character vs. Circumstances (Situation)

- something unexpected happens to an individual

- thrown into an unusual set of circumstances

Mixing and Matching Plots

Careful - each genre has its own conventions, and follows a certain category or theme.  Know the conventions of your genre - if you want to SELL what you write.

a.Suspense - Thriller

- sometimes called the "Race against the Clock," e.g., Cinderella, On The Beach, etc.  Andromeda Strain:  Gotta have an antidote within three days (one of the oldest of plots).

b.Solo Objective Plot

- Climax and conclusion can be the same, e.g., the Eagle has Landed.

c.The Daring Escape (Towering Inferno, Poseidon Adventure)

- Build up individual characters and then kill them off

- The element of suspense comes from not knowing who will survive and who will not (keep 'em guessing).

d.The Baffling Incident

- a bizarre event or set of circumstances

- suspense comes from learning the cause.

e.The Earlier Incident Follow-up

- Throughout the novel, the earlier incident is slowly revealed (Sparrow)

- Incident can be motivation for action with the novel

- sometimes called a "Whodunit?"

Examples of well-plotted Novels:

Our Game - John LeCarre  (other novels, too)

Killer in the Rain - Raymond Chandler

Telling of Lies - Timothy Findley

Mortal Stakes - Robert Parker