Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Basics

According to Christopher Booker, there are seven basic plots, which are as follows.

  • Overcoming the Monster A terrifying, all-powerful, life-threatening monster whom the hero must confront in a fight to the death. An example of this plot is seen in Beowulf, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dracula.

  • Rags to Riches Someone who has seemed to the world quite commonplace is shown to have been hiding a second, more exceptional self within. Think the ugly duckling, Jane Eyre and Clark Kent.

  • The Quest From the moment the hero learns of the priceless goal, he sets out on a hazardous journey to reach it. Examples are seen in The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

  • Voyage and Return The hero or heroine and a few companions travel out of the familiar surroundings into another world completely cut off from the first. While it is at first marvellous, there is a sense of increasing peril. After a dramatic escape, they return to the familiar world where they began. Alice in Wonderland and The Time Machine are obvious examples; but Brideshead Revisited and Gone with the Wind also embody this basic plotline.

  • Comedy Following a general chaos of misunderstanding, the characters tie themselves and each other into a knot that seems almost unbearable; however, to universal relief, everyone and everything gets sorted out, bringing about the happy ending. Shakespeare’s comedies come to mind, as do Jane Austen’s perfect novels.

  • Tragedy A character through some flaw or lack of self-understanding is increasingly drawn into a fatal course of action which leads inexorably to disaster. King Lear, Madame Bovary, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bonnie and Clyde—all flagrantly tragic.

  • Rebirth There is a mounting sense of threat as a dark force approaches the hero until it emerges completely, holding the hero in its deadly grip. Only after a time, when it seems that the dark force has triumphed, does the reversal take place. The hero is redeemed, usually through the life-giving power of love. Many fairy tales take this shape; also, works like Silas Marner and It’s a Wonderful Life.

As well as these seven basic plots, there are said to be seven basic conflicts.

  • Character vs. Character A fight between, say, Cyclops and Wolverine.

  • Character vs. Nature The movie Castaway. Tom Hanks is stuck on an island with a soccer ball.

  • Character vs.Machine Terminator, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, The Matrix.

  • Character vs. Self  The internal conflict within his or her self. Hamlet.

  • Character vs. Supernatural Ghostbusters, Poltergiest, Night of the Living Dead, Twilight (Just kidding.)

  • Character vs. Society I'm gonna go out on a limb here and suggest Disney's Mulan.

  • Character vs. Destiny MacBeth.

So I decided it might be an interesting exercise to try to fit my stories into these plots and conflicts and see what goes where.  Let's begin, shall we?

Elven Lacryment falls under the category of  The Quest and unbeknownst to many of the characters it becomes Character vs. Destiny.

Next to Godliness is equal parts Tragedy and Rebirth story. Since they're all gods it would likely be Character vs. Supernatural

Amethyst Breed is a Quest. One of the characters is given some information and sent on a mission to recruit others to their cause. It is largely Character vs Character with a dash of Character vs. Machine, against a backdrop of Character vs. Society.

Project C I don't know if this one was the easiest to classify because it's one of my oldest or what but it's definitely Voyage and Return and the conflict is clearly Character vs. Society as well as Character vs. Self.

Blood in the Water is also a Quest, and is Character vs. Character while also being Character vs. Nature.

ABC Kid's Book Voyage and Return, and it is Character vs. Society.

So, what about you? What are the basic plots and conflicts in your stories?


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