BASIC PLOTTING

All successful (read: popular) stories have patterns. Sometimes it's simple, sometimes it's complex, but all of the stories read or told often enough to remain in the popular mind of any culture have a pattern, a plot.

Basic PLOTTING
by OokamiKasumi



A plot is the pattern a story follows, the most common being:

-- Beginning
-- Middle
-- End

All successful (read: popular) stories have patterns. Sometimes it's simple, sometimes it's complex, but all of the stories read or told often enough to remain in the popular mind of any culture have a pattern, a plot.

Here are some examples of simple plot patterns…

Traditional:
• He came.
• He saw.
• He conquered.

American Dream Version:
• He saw.
• He conquered.
• He became very rich.

The Heroic version:
• He came.
• He conquered and became the leader of his people.
• He died in the middle of a glorious battle to defend his land, and became a legendary figure that would never be forgotten.

Erotic Version:
• He saw.
• He conquered.
• He came.

Aristotle's Elements of a Greek Tragedy - simplified:
• Act One: He rose to glory.
• Act Two: His pride drove him to make a foolish, but costly, mistake.
• Act Three: He crashed and burned.

Aristotle's Elements - American version:
• Act One: He rose to glory.
• Act Two: His pride drove him to make a foolish, but costly, mistake.
• Act Three: He crashed and burned.
• Act Four: He fixed his mistake, and rose again to conquer.

Your basic Romance plot:
• The lovers are thrown together.
• The lovers are forced apart.
• The lovers go against the odds to get back together.

Your basic Yaoi Romance plot:
• One lover seduces the other.
• A misunderstanding drives one lover away.
• The lover that misunderstood chases the other lover down to beg for forgiveness.

Your basic Adventure plot:
• Hero meets Villain.
• They fight and the Villain wins.
• The hero rises from his defeat to battle the Villain again, and wins the war.

Your basic Manga Adventure plot:
• A group of friends meet a Villain.
• The villain corners them individually and defeats each one.
• The friends rise from their individual defeats to team up on the Villain and win the war.


I can already hear the whining…

"But that's so…formulaic! Where's the creativity?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Creativity is Overrated.

Ever hear the phrase: "It's not what you have, it's what you do with it,"? This is especially true when writing stories. It's not the plot, but what you do with the plot that makes it creative.

No matter what those Creative Writing classes teach, for a story to be enjoyed by the widest possible audience, it needs to have some sort of structure, a pattern -- a plot.

Why?

Because a story without some sort of plot pattern reads…wrong. Everyone, in every culture, has been trained from childhood to EXPECT a story to follow some sort of pattern to take it from Here to There, and make some sort of point too. In fact, some of the hottest blockbuster movies including 'Star Wars' follow one of the oldest plot patterns in human history -- the Heroic Cycle, as codified by Joseph Campbell.

The Heroic Mythic Cycle:
(Paraphrased to avoid copyright issues.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Act One - Chosen

Humble Beginnings
Destiny Comes Knocking
Shoved into Adventure
Sagely Advice ~ Paramours & Sidekicks

Act Two - Challenge

Leaving the Known World behind
Challenges, Friends & Foes
Battle at the Crossroads

Act Three – Crisis

Into the Labyrinth
Temptation & Betrayal
Anger ~ Despair ~ Sacrifice
Inheritance / Blessing / Curse
Treasure & Celebration

Act Four – Climax

Escape / Expelled from the Labyrinth
The Hunter becomes the Hunted
Rescue & Loss of Paramour / Side-kick
Battle at the Crossroads to Home
Death / Rebirth
Delivery of Treasure & Just Rewards


A great many people who write quite successfully 'by the seat of their pants,' may tell you that they don't need to plot, they just…write it from beginning to end. That doesn't mean their stories don't follow a pattern. It's merely that the plotting pattern they use is so ingrained into their subconscious they follow it instinctively -- without even knowing they're doing it.

Unfortunately, that's not a talent I possess. I have to work everything out on paper or I get lost in a hurry.


How to Use a Plot
"What is plotting good for anyway?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, the best use of a plotting pattern is so you don't get lost in the story. Think of the plot outline as a road map marking out the most direct route from Here to There. This doesn't mean you can't take side trips to sight-see or visit friends along the way. It's merely a way of keeping track of where you are, and where you should go next, by knowing where you intend to end up. Knowing your basic route ahead of time also makes it much more difficult to get lost on a back road or trapped in a cul-de-sac.

In short, if you know where you're going when you start out, sooner or later, you'll actually get there.


A note on Japanese stories…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From: 'Eight Ways to say You ~ The Challenges of Translation'
By Cathy Hirano


The most obvious differences between Japanese and English writing styles are organization and tone.

My English composition classes in high school taught me that English is supposed to flow in a linear fashion, from introduction, to body, to conclusion, and that a statement should be supported by a logical explanation. Even in literature, a book works toward a climax, and then a conclusion. In contrast, Japanese composition appears almost circular, and although it has its own logic and organization, it is very different from how I learned to write in school.

In English, we stress clarity.

In Japanese, subtlety is preferred. The Japanese writer dances around his theme, implying rather than directly stating what he wants to say, leaving it up to readers to discern that for themselves. He or she appeals to the reader's emotions rather than to the intellect, and tries to create a rapport rather than to convince. The Japanese reader, in turn, is quite capable of taking great leaps of imagination to follow the story line.

Cathy Hirano is the translator of The Friends, winner, for Farrar, Straus & Giroux, of the 1997 Batchelder Award.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Go HERE to read the whole article.


In Conclusion…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
-- By using even the most basic of plot patterns, the writer can keep track of not only where they are in their story, but where they intend to end up. This makes it very easy to avoid the most common pitfall of fiction writing: "The story's halfway done and I have no idea how to end it!"

Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Posts

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That was a good read! Now I can determine where I'm at in my plot. Right now I'm working on "act 3 crisis!" The American dream version made me laugh! I guess that would be similar to a treasure hunting plot!
In Japanese, subtlety is preferred. The Japanese writer dances around his theme, implying rather than directly stating what he wants to say, leaving it up to readers to discern that for themselves. He or she appeals to the reader's emotions rather than to the intellect, and tries to create a rapport rather than to convince. The Japanese reader, in turn, is quite capable of taking great leaps of imagination to follow the story line.

This does explain quite a lot when it comes to JRPG plots. The subtlety part doesn't seem to translate into most JRPGs, but most JRPGs do however (at least try to) appeal to emotions rather than the intellect.
author=spirit_young
That was a good read! Now I can determine where I'm at in my plot. Right now I'm working on "act 3 crisis!"
Excellent! I'm glad I could help.
-- Sometimes all you need is half a clue to point you in the right direction.

author=spirit_young
The American dream version made me laugh! I guess that would be similar to a treasure hunting plot!
LOL! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and yes, treasure hunting, or treasure finding, could indeed be considered an American Dream.


author=Crystalgate
This does explain quite a lot when it comes to JRPG plots. The subtlety part doesn't seem to translate into most JRPGs, but most JRPGs do however (at least try to) appeal to emotions rather than the intellect.
Once I read this article, a whole pile of manga and anime that seemed pointless and/or ridiculously open-ended suddenly made sense. It was a real eye-opener for me.
Great article, down to earth and practical advice. Good job! ^^

author=OokamiKasumi
Well, the best use of a plotting pattern is so you don't get lost in the story. Think of the plot outline as a road map marking out the most direct route from Here to There. This doesn't mean you can't take side trips to sight-see or visit friends along the way. It's merely a way of keeping track of where you are, and where you should go next, by knowing where you intend to end up. Knowing your basic route ahead of time also makes it much more difficult to get lost on a back road or trapped in a cul-de-sac.


I really like this part as it also applies to mapping and level design: Typically you'd draw the critical route (the shortest one to the goal) and have mapping features or events make it stand out, leading the players towards it. Then you'd add other routes and rooms around it to allow for side trips and exploration.
author=Avee
Great article, down to earth and practical advice. Good job! ^^

I'm glad you like it!

author=Avee
I really like this part as it also applies to mapping and level design: Typically you'd draw the critical route (the shortest one to the goal) and have mapping features or events make it stand out, leading the players towards it. Then you'd add other routes and rooms around it to allow for side trips and exploration.

Well, one plots a Route too!
-- It's amazing how many people start creating without even knowing where they want to end up. And they're always so surprised when they can't seem to finish.

Common Sense: Sense is many things. Common is not one of them.
Max McGee
My name is Legion: for we are many.
8785
"But that's so…formulaic! Where's the creativity?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Creativity is Overrated.

I vomited in my mouth a little.

This is the kind of thinking that lowered mainstream fiction to the level of Harry Potter. And Twilight. When I see that "Teen Paranormal Romance" is now a section in bookstores, it doesn't make me glad that teens are reading, it makes me want to burn down bookstores.

No matter what those Creative Writing classes teach, for a story to be enjoyed by the widest possible audience, it needs to have some sort of structure, a pattern -- a plot.

Why?

Yes, obviously, and I think every Creative Writing class teaches that.

But a Plot doesn't have to be artificially crafted to follow a formula. It can arise naturally from the character's motivations and actions. Good stories are motivated by desires and obstacles. And even if you put Plot first and Character motivation second, not every Plot has to follow an established formula.

A great many people who write quite successfully 'by the seat of their pants,' may tell you that they don't need to plot, they just…write it from beginning to end. That doesn't mean their stories don't follow a pattern. It's merely that the plotting pattern they use is so ingrained into their subconscious they follow it instinctively -- without even knowing they're doing it.

Unfortunately, that's not a talent I possess. I have to work everything out on paper or I get lost in a hurry.

Again, stories can unfold from characters pursuing their objectives; plot really is only the obstacles thrown in their way (and arguably) how they deal with them. And when those obstacles are other characters, "Plot" can really take a back seat. (I've always been one of those "no planning, no outlines" writers. It makes it a bitch to pick something up again after letting it sit for years.)

In English, we stress clarity.

In Japanese, subtlety is preferred. The Japanese writer dances around his theme, implying rather than directly stating what he wants to say, leaving it up to readers to discern that for themselves. He or she appeals to the reader's emotions rather than to the intellect, and tries to create a rapport rather than to convince. The Japanese reader, in turn, is quite capable of taking great leaps of imagination to follow the story line.

What you're talking about is subtext, and it's not like it doesn't exist in the realm of Western literature. The Nipponese do not have a monopoly on it.
author=Max McGee
Creativity is Overrated.
I vomited in my mouth a little.
Strangely, I'm not surprised. LOL!

author=Max McGee
This is the kind of thinking that lowered mainstream fiction to the level of Harry Potter. And Twilight.
Unfortunately this is the kind of thinking publishers operate under and those are the books that the Publishers Contract. It sucks, but it's the cold hard truth.

Publishers are Not patrons of the arts. They are a corporate Businesses. They only buy (contract) what they know they can sell. At the moment it's drivel like Twilight. Don't worry, it will change because the market always changes.

author=Max McGee
No matter what those Creative Writing classes teach, for a story to be enjoyed by the widest possible audience, it needs to have some sort of structure, a pattern -- a plot.
Yes, obviously, and I think every Creative Writing class teaches that.
Not according to my writing students. Stream of Consciousness writing seems to be all the rage in the current classes.

author=Max McGee
But a Plot doesn't have to be artificially crafted to follow a formula. It can arise naturally from the character's motivations and actions. Good stories are motivated by desires and obstacles. And even if you put Plot first and Character motivation second, not every Plot has to follow an established formula.
Agreed. However the established formulas are something one should know if one plans to write something for a reading audience. They're a place to Begin -- which is why this article is titled: BASIC Plotting.

author=Max McGee
A great many people who write quite successfully 'by the seat of their pants,' may tell you that they don't need to plot, they just…write it from beginning to end. That doesn't mean their stories don't follow a pattern. It's merely that the plotting pattern they use is so ingrained into their subconscious they follow it instinctively -- without even knowing they're doing it.
I've always been one of those "no planning, no outlines" writers. It makes it a bitch to pick something up again after letting it sit for years.
LOL! If you plotted your story out first, you wouldn't have that problem. :)

author=Max McGee
In English, we stress clarity. In Japanese, subtlety is preferred...
What you're talking about is subtext, and it's not like it doesn't exist in the realm of Western literature. The Nipponese do not have a monopoly on it.
Tell that to the Japanese lady that wrote that article. I added her views to my essay to deal with a question I was constantly being asked: "Why are Japanese stories so different from ours?"
Dudesoft
always a dudesoft, never a soft dude.
4971
I'm pretty Legion has nothing better to do than ruin good articles. I thought you worked in the game industry now? Why not ditch RMN, bro?

Great article, btw. I'm looking forward to seeing the other ones Legion shat in.
I'd also like to add to 'Creativity is Overrated' that 'Talent is Bullshit'.
author=Dudesoft
I'm pretty Legion has nothing better to do than ruin good articles.

Jealousy is an ugly thing, ne?

LOL! Don't worry, my weapons of choice are facts and cold hard Logic.
-- I never post anything that I can't back up.


author=Dudesoft
I thought you worked in the game industry now? Why not ditch RMN, bro?

I'm not in the game industry. I'm a lowly fiction author, not a game maker. I make games as a hobby. I don't have the computer skills to do them professionally. Nor can I afford to pay for the commercial copyrights on certain resources. Do you have me mixed up with someone else?

Ditch RMN? But I just got here...!


author=Dudesoft
Great article, btw. I'm looking forward to seeing the other ones Legion shat in.

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.
-- My Writing Horror essays and my Gothic Structure essay. :)


author=Dudesoft
I'd also like to add to 'Creativity is Overrated' that 'Talent is Bullshit'.

Talent is when you get it right by Accident.
Craft is when you get it right On Purpose.

I'm a Craftsman and a mercenary.
-- I write for Money which means I literally cannot afford to get it wrong. (Pun intended.)
Dudesoft
always a dudesoft, never a soft dude.
4971
Oh, about leaving RMN was for Legion. (Though, I highly doubt he'll reply now that he's had his say.)
author=Dudesoft
Oh, about leaving RMN was for Legion. (Though, I highly doubt he'll reply now that he's had his say.)

I won't complain if I never hear from that one again. Seriously. Though I expect I'll see him again when I post something new.
author=Max McGee
What you're talking about is subtext, and it's not like it doesn't exist in the realm of Western literature. The Nipponese do not have a monopoly on it.

Ah, thanks! Subtext fits JRPG stories far better than subtlety.
author=Dudesoft
I'm pretty Legion has nothing better to do than ruin good articles. I thought you worked in the game industry now? Why not ditch RMN, bro?

Great article, btw. I'm looking forward to seeing the other ones Legion shat in.
I'd also like to add to 'Creativity is Overrated' that 'Talent is Bullshit'.

lol... just.. i think my heart may have just stopped from reading that

I'm going to have to agree though, just ditch RMN because this article is indicative of the complete death of creative and intellectual integrity in this realm
Ciel
an aristocrat of rpgmaker culture
243
bads will be bads
author=OokamiKasumi
Jealousy is an ugly thing, ne?


id like to nominate this article and thread for the outstanding comedic game misao please

i know its not a game but i think we can bend the rules a little for this one

ne
Dudesoft
always a dudesoft, never a soft dude.
4971
author=Lita_LeCotta
author=Dudesoft
I'm pretty Legion has nothing better to do than ruin good articles. I thought you worked in the game industry now? Why not ditch RMN, bro?

Great article, btw. I'm looking forward to seeing the other ones Legion shat in.
I'd also like to add to 'Creativity is Overrated' that 'Talent is Bullshit'.
lol... just.. i think my heart may have just stopped from reading that

I'm going to have to agree though, just ditch RMN because this article is indicative of the complete death of creative and intellectual integrity in this realm

Believe what you want kid. Art is a form of language. You LEARN it. Anyone can be taught to paint. Anyone can be taught to play music, anyone can be taught to speak Japanese.
If you grow up in a house with Japanese parents, should I be impressed you can speak Japanese?
Mozart wrote a symphony when was 5 or so? He grew up in a home where music was a language. His parents were both musicians.
I grew up with my mom who drew with me and wrote stories with me. It's been a part of my nurture.
However, I'm not born able to draw. I learned it.
I wasn't born with the ability to write, I learned.
Talent is bullshit means: if some jackass looks at your work and goes 'wow, I could never do that, you're so talented'---NO. I learned this.
Do you chaff at the restrictions of proper essay writing? Hope not. What makes writing a story any different? There's still a story path the audience demands of you. Most very popular authors don't just sit down and shit out a novel. They break down what goes where, why, what it represents, and then writes their book. Everything is decided before the novel is on paper---so! Learning the rules, and things that make up a proper story that your audience wants to read, is key.
Again; "Learning!"
Talent is bullshit; it's a learned language and skill. Not talent. Not creativity.

Creativity is where you get your ideas, when you draw from inspiration or imagination. It's not necissary, once you know how to write from structure.
YDS
member of the bull moose party
2276


author=SOME F*CKER!!!
In Japanese, subtlety is preferred. The Japanese writer dances around his theme, implying rather than directly stating what he wants to say, leaving it up to readers to discern that for themselves. He or she appeals to the reader's emotions rather than to the intellect, and tries to create a rapport rather than to convince. The Japanese reader, in turn, is quite capable of taking great leaps of imagination to follow the story line.


WOw. This is some freaking BULLCRAP. i'll let my work speak for yourself, but maybe you should check your previlige before you post next time, bigot.

author=HOW TO HIT ON GIRLS- CAVe Dog
"Sup thou??" ----an old faovirte. probably will impress any lady, but maybe not. if it does not work you must mutter "snake eyes" in your creepies voice" while shoving your hands in front of you+grasping at air while you walk backwards

"stop tasking me questions or i'm gonna cry" wow. I really didn't expect this one to work, but it did. i have never seenn a woman get off her bike and just start sucking ab ird's dick. just, head bobbing away like a woodpecker (this is a technique known as "fake alliteration" for you newcomers0), eager to have my hot avian cum blasted all over her fuckign face ftw. also,. i'm a bir


"shut up. piss on me. freaking piss all over my gaty body noobie. i want to touch your giant boobs and give you my hitl;eraids. i'm a very powerful socerver" untestend
User was warned for this post
author=Dudesoft
Creativity is where you get your ideas, when you draw from inspiration or imagination. It's not neccessary, once you know how to write from structure.


the prosecution rests your honor
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