White-hot writing–not worrying about plot or characters, just letting the story flow–now that is fun!
At some point, however, that flashover of creativity has to be restrained. We need to impose order on chaotic thought.
Your Guiding Decision is to determine your PLOT.
Two considerations when dealing with plot are type and method.
TYPES of PLOT
The Booker Prize people claimed that—for all the stories in the world, from the most ancient myth to the most disaffected absurdist modern—only seven basic plots exist.
Seven. 7. Nyah, can’t be.
Let’s try it.
- Overcoming the Monster: Beowulf, Jaws, Lord of the Flies, King Lear, Alien, Fried Green Tomatoes, Atonement
- Rags to Riches: Cinderella, Aladdin, Oliver Twist, Great Gatsby, Prince and the Pauper, Good Deeds, Pretty Woman
- The Quest: Odyssey, Watership Down, Raising Arizona, Willow, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Avatar, Pride and Prejudice
- Comedy: anything by Aristophanes, anything by the Marx Brothers, Airplane, The Blues Brothers, Animal House, A Walk in the Woods, Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing Up Baby
- Tragedy: Oedipus, Macbeth, Rebel without a Cause, Frances, Philadelphia, Cool Hand Luke, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
- Rebirth: Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol, Now Voyager, Summertime, Avatar, Persuasion
- Voyage and Return: Peter Rabbit, The Hobbit, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Brideshead Revisited, Mansfield Park, Great Expectations, The Tempest
Whaddya know? The Booker Prize people are right. Whether concrete or abstract, real or metaphorical, all sorts of stories do fit these seven categories.
Methods for Plotting
Every school unfortunately teaches simplistic plot, otherwise known as Freytag’s Pyramid, which can look like the graphic at the left.
The unfortunate truth is that stories are not simple pyramids.
For Kurt Vonnegut, his stories go straight down.
Method 2 . . . .
The continuation of this original blog post from 20 November 2016 can be found in the publication Think Like a Writer: 7 Tips to Change a Hobby to a Profession, by M. A. Lee.