Sunday, 10 June 2007

The 7, 20 and 36 basic plots in story telling

In "Wannabe a Writer" Jane says there are 14 basic plots that all stories/novels are based on in some way.

I was curious what these might be (and am in a short story writing mood and needed inspiration) so googled plots and...found nothing...not about 14 basic plots anyway. I did, however, discovered 7, 20 and 30 basic plots* (depending on who you believe). These are:

7 plots

[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

20 plots

Tobias, Ronald B. 20 Master Plots. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1993. (ISBN 0-89879-595-8)This book proposes twenty basic plots:

Quest
Adventure
Pursuit
Rescue
Escape
Revenge
The Riddle
Rivalry
Underdog
Temptation
Metamorphosis
Transformation
Maturation
Love
Forbidden Love
Sacrifice
Discovery
Wretched Excess
Ascension
Descension

36 plots

Polti, Georges. The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. trans. Lucille Ray.
Polti claims to be trying to reconstruct the 36 plots that Goethe alleges someone named [Carlo] Gozzi came up with. (In the following list, the words in parentheses are our annotations to try to explain some of the less helpful titles.):

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 Dishonor 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

Now I've got so many plots to choose from I still don't know what to write!

* information sourced from here. http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/plotFARQ.html

5 comments:

Nichola said...

I heard there were seven basic plots as well...I have a word.doc listing them which I could email if you're interested.

It's just a bit of fun and gives us something else to read when we're not writing!

SallyQ said...

If you'd just gone to my website, Cally, Polti's plots are listed there ;-)

Also, Strange Horizons have 'plots to avoid' here http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common.shtml

(they're remarkably similar to Polti's plots...)

CTaylor said...

Nichola - oooh yes please. If you go to www.callytaylor.com and click on the 'contact' page you'll find my email address.

Sally - Yes, I just checked your page and saw that you've got more detail on the 36 plots! Thanks for the list of plots to avoid. Will have a look.

Nichola said...

Just sent an email - it might go to your junk bin as it's from a strange, weird, unheard-of email address. :D

Lucy Diamond said...

Wow, what a list. I will bookmark this and come back to it if need be! Cheers for posting it.