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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author=Sauce
My argument against "talent is bullshit" is that it demeans people who fail to do something as just having done it wrong or not working hard enough or anything along those lines.

A person with talent might get twice the results out of a given amount of work that a person without talent does. And many times it's just not reasonable and sometimes impossible to just "work twice as hard to make up for it."


I'm going to have to disagree with you.
-- Hard work and pure sheer stubbornness will create the skills to match anyone with talent because talent is merely another way of saying: Instinct.

Sure, Mozart had a head-start with the fact that his instincts for music were actually bred into him the same way a greyhound is bred to run. However, he also had a god-awful amount of training from early childhood hammered into him by his musician parents and all their associates.

Einstein on the other hand, was not such a good student, and he didn't have the blessing of parents that could train him. He failed algebra -- repeatedly, among other subjects. That didn't stop him from solving and creating some of the most fundamental problems in physics. Not because he was talented, but because he was fascinated. He didn't have talent, but he did have Passion --> stubbornness.
I never once said talent alone trumps hardwork and skill.

But how do you compete with a talented person who works just as hard as you? Impossible. You're ignoring talented people who also work hard. Talent and hardwork are obviously not mutually exclusive.

It's not possible for me to work hard enough to match Messi, who already works harder than most, BECAUSE of his talent advantage.

My argument is still that you can't disregard talent.
CAVE_DOG_IS_BACK
On sunny days, I go out walking
1142
author=OokamiKasumi
Einstein on the other hand, was not such a good student, and he didn't have the blessing of parents that could train him. He failed algebra -- repeatedly, among other subjects. That didn't stop him from solving and creating some of the most fundamental problems in physics. Not because he was talented, but because he was fascinated. He didn't have talent, but he did have Passion --> stubbornness.


Hi, just wanted to point out that this is a completely unsubstantiated myth. Einstein received top marks in school and was generally an all around talented and superhuman dude with bad hair. Just goes to show, I guess, that some people are genetically better than others.
Dudesoft
always a dudesoft, never a soft dude.
6489
author=Sauce
Well, that's obvious.

My argument against "talent is bullshit" is that it demeans people who fail to do something as just having done it wrong or not working hard enough or anything along those lines.

A person with talent might get twice the results out of a given amount of work that a person without talent does. And many times it's just not reasonable and sometimes impossible to just "work twice as hard to make up for it."


It's my teacher's number one lesson. Because even teenagers who have very little education in drawing or writing outside of highschool projects leave his courses with proper skillsets to tell stories.
His philosophy is that if you can teach a person to write a language, you can teach a person to draw a human being in repose.
So perhaps you and he both have valid points. Perhaps some people are born able to draw, and some need to be taught to hold a pencil. Either way you look at it, at some point everyone gets to funnel through the same learning exercises.
Some people take longer to learn. Some people are talented and don't want to learn or have a closed mind to new ideas.

His point that "Talent is Bullshit" is that he can teach you how to do this shit. Meaning: Talent can be learned. Practice makes perfect. Etc.
yes everyone is a special snowflake. but as sauce points out, some are more special than others. without getting into far out genetic engineering territory it can be said that there have always been and always will be genetically superior humans, in terms of physical and mental capabilities. they will naturally come out above others who have the same motivation, training, luck, etc.

author=CAVE_DOG_IS_BACK
Hi, just wanted to point out that this is a completely unsubstantiated myth. Einstein received top marks in school and was generally an all around talented and superhuman dude with bad hair. Just goes to show, I guess, that some people are genetically better than others.

yea einstein was just a very independent kid who went about his own way of doing things, which is why his teacher is quoted as saying he'd "never amount to anything"--yet of course it is for that very reason that he was able to help establish quantum mechanics. at least that is what my chemistry text told me.....

edited for my silliness


My interpretation is that the "Talent is bullshit" motto is a counter to the excuse used by many people who don't even attempt to learn because they think they don't have the talent for it.

For the most part, that's a result of not knowing your potential and limitations. This is for skills that seem daunting but in reality most people could learn.

My arguments have been in defense of the upper echelon of human capacity.

I maybe could practice soccer harder than Leo Messi does, but I couldn't practice so much as to make up for the gap in talent, since he already trains as hard as possible. In fact, my failure or the failures of any other athlete who aspire to play at Messi's level wouldn't be for lack of trying or for lack of proper training.

@Ookami - I'm of the belief that the mental fortitude, which is so important to hard work and determination, is a talent/skill like all the rest. As in, it's not simply a decision to be made.
Dudesoft
always a dudesoft, never a soft dude.
6489
Sports are kind of unfair in a way. I'm only 5'10''. I'm great at basketball, but there's no way I could play professionally, regardless of how hard I tried.
Maybe baseball, but that's aside the point.

Your first sentence probably summerises it best. And as far as this article goes, his motto is good here. I don't think myself nor Ookami are denying the existence of creativity or talent; moreso aspiring to point out that you don't need them to succeed.
author=Dudesoft
Your first sentence probably summerises it best. And as far as this article goes, his motto is good here.
Agreed. Too many people DO use "I don't have the talent," as an excuse to not even try.

author=Dudesoft
I don't think myself nor Ookami are denying the existence of creativity or talent; more so aspiring to point out that you don't need them to succeed.
That's it exactly. :)
TFT
WHOA wow wow. two tails? that is a sexy idea...
368

ookamikasumi sounds like a real babe.
*boing*
author=boing
WHOA wow wow. two tails? that is a sexy idea...


i sincerely hope this inspires ookamikasumi to write her breakthrough hit
Dudesoft
always a dudesoft, never a soft dude.
6489
Boo! Don't listen to someone from Team Cat.
author=TFT
ookamikasumi sounds like a real babe.
*boing*
I was, about 15 years ago. :)

author=mellytan
i sincerely hope this inspires ookamikasumi to write her breakthrough hit.
If you're referring to novels, I did, in 2004. That's when I quit my day job. I have a whole pile of titles out now.
I've noticed than none of my comments really addressed the meat of this article. Granted, most posts haven't, but still.

To be honest, I had a hard time grasping what exactly this article was telling me. Sure, it's obvious that the article is telling me that the story should have patterns, but I had a hart time thinking of one without a pattern. Eventually I found one though.

It's a story written by two eight years old as a school assignment. The story stars two main characters and at the beginning, one of them finds a diamond. Then other stuffs happens and when the story ends, it turns out that the diamond is completely irrelevant to the rest of the story.

The problem is that I needed a story written by an eight years old for this though. After that, I did manage to figure out a few more examples of stories with broken patterns. Still, of all the poorly written stories I've seen, a lack of pattern seems to be one of the least common problems. Heck, most stories I've seen that are made up and scribbled down during a short period of time still has a pattern.

Either I'm misunderstanding what you mean with pattern or you're giving an advice that almost everyone already follows without even thinking about it.
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