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How few plots

Uther_Pendragon

There are frequent comments -- not necessarily here -- that there are only a few plots, endlessly recycled. Some critics will even list them for you.

What these are are lists of plot types. Maybe any plot will fit into one category on the list (although I'd like to see them fit Heinlein's "All You Zombies" on some list.}

Two plots in the same category aren't the same, or even almost the same, story. I've been reading a book of 50 (presumably great) short stories.

After all, the tags say that there are only 6 types of character: Adult male, teen male, boy, adult female, teen female, girl.
That doesn't mean that you can't have many different characters. If someone writes a story featuring Jeanette Brennan with a different name and I see it, I'll complain to Lazeez.

I, at least, seldom start with a plot, let alone a plot type. My usual starting point is:
1) A guy,
2) A gal,
3) A situation.

Now that formula doesn't cover MM or FF stories. It doesn't even cover all my stories. Still, you could write all your life following that formula without repeating.

Sometimes, when you start like that, you find that the guy and the gal don't interact in a way that leads to sex or not in a way that leads to a story. You have to be ready to abandon your beginning and begin an entirely different story.

A few caveats:

A physical description isn't a character. Characters aren't as complicated as real people, but the closer you get to that, the better.

You have to know more about your characters than the reader does. You only tell a little, but as the story goes on, the character acts out of your understanding of him/her. That way, the reader sees something consistent.

With a serial running right now in which the guy and the gal meet in the first chapter, I can't say, "Don't have them meet onstage." Don't restrict yourself to that, however. "Situation" doesn't mean "The circumstances under which they meet."
One reason that I like to write about married couples is that a marriage involves lots of situations which involve sex. Even if the situations don't, the couple often have sex.

I say you start with a situation, but -- really -- you start with a situation, one or both characters react to that, and that gives you a somewhat different situation.

Dominions Son

@Uther_Pendragon

A physical description isn't a character.


True, but I wouldn't consider a character complete without some level of physical description.

Switch Blayde

@Uther_Pendragon

I, at least, seldom start with a plot


There's a difference between writing a plot-driven story and a character-driven story. It sounds like you prefer the latter. However, when it's done, the reader won't know how you got there (character- or plot-driven).

However, your #3 (a situation) sounds like the beginning of a plot to me.

I put my characters into situations and see how they react (based on what I know about the character and the story's theme). So it sounds like it's character driven. But I write plot-driven stories. Before I begin, I know the following (all but the first is plot related).

1. main characters and their relationships.
2. plot's conflict (what protagonist wants/needs and what's in the way).
3. inciting incident (what sets the conflict in motion).
4. conflict resolution (plot's climax)

Plot = conflict. So when you say you put your character into a situation, I assume it's the inciting incident (which creates the conflict). You just don't know how it's going to end.

Replies:   Grant  Uther_Pendragon
Grant

@Switch Blayde

Plot = conflict.

Or just dealing with things when they change from the usual.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Grant

Or just dealing with things when they change from the usual.


If he had rye bread instead of white bread for breakfast because they were out of white bread, that's a change from the usual but not a plot. Now if the rye bread contained poison that he had to find an antidote for, that's a plot. It's not just the change.

I don't particularly like it, but I once read:

"The King is dead" is not a plot.

"The King is dead. Long live the Queen" is a plot.

Replies:   Grant  AmigaClone
Grant

@Switch Blayde

Battling a blizzard is a change in weather. It's not a conflict. Likewise a flood etc. Or dealing with the results of such things, or other issues in general.

A plot in a story is the path it follows in moving from the beginning to end. There may or may not be conflict involved.

AmigaClone

@Switch Blayde


If he had rye bread instead of white bread for breakfast because they were out of white bread, that's a change from the usual but not a plot.

The reason they were out of white bread could be part of the plot though.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
awnlee jawking

@Grant

Battling a blizzard is a change in weather. It's not a conflict. Likewise a flood etc.


I disagree. There are plenty of books and movies out there for which the plot is the conflict of man versus the elements.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play  Grant
Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

There are plenty of books and movies out there for which the plot is the conflict of man versus the elements.

Conflict seems like a bit of a misnomer. It's convenient in most cases but will sometimes be more specific than is actually meant.

SB's first post provided a more precise definition of conflict, 'what [the] protagonist wants/needs and what's in the way'. You could have said, "... for which the plot is what a man wants/needs versus the elements which are in the way."

Switch Blayde

@Grant

A plot in a story is the path it follows in moving from the beginning to end. There may or may not be conflict involved.


We'll have to disagree on this. You are defining a series of events, not plot. Maybe that's why I find so many SOL stories boring.

Replies:   Grant
Switch Blayde

@AmigaClone

The reason they were out of white bread could be part of the plot though.


No argument there. That would be the conflict.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Grant
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

I disagree. There are plenty of books and movies out there for which the plot is the conflict of man versus the elements.

Conflict is generally considered something to be between people.

"a situation in which there are opposing demands or ideas and a choice has to be made between them"
"a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one."
"be incompatible or at variance; clash."
"1 : an extended struggle : battle. 2 : a clashing disagreement (as between ideas or interests)"

We may struggle against the elements, but there is no conflict involved- the elements don't care about us, they just are. Unless you're doing a story of man v the Gods then the conflict would be between man and the Gods, the weather just being a tool the Gods use.

Grant

@Switch Blayde

We'll have to disagree on this. You are defining a series of events, not plot. Maybe that's why I find so many SOL stories boring.

You don't like the actual definition of what a plot is?
A plot is a series of events. Whether it is interesting or not depends on both the reader (what interests them), and the author in how well they present those series of event to arrive at the eventual conclusion.

"1. a plan made in secret by a group of people to do something illegal or harmful.
2. the main events of a play, novel, film, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence."
"Also called storyline. the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story."
"the main events of a play, novel, film, or similar."
"Plot is a literary term used to describe the events that make up a story, or the main part of a story. These events relate to each other in a pattern or a sequence. The structure of a novel depends on the organization of events in the plot of the story."

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Grant

Conflict is generally considered something to be between people.


In plots, there are three types of conflict:

1. man vs man
2. man vs nature
3. man vs self

and recently, some people add two more:

4. man vs society
5. man vs technology

Don't let the word "conflict" mislead you. It's simply what the protagonist wants/needs and what's in the way (antagonist). The antagonist doesn't even have to be a villain. The protagonist could be vying for a girl and his best friend (antagonist) could want the same girl. It could even be a comedy.

robberhands
Updated:

@Uther_Pendragon

There are frequent comments -- not necessarily here -- that there are only a few plots, endlessly recycled. Some critics will even list them for you.

Such an extraordinary discovery with absolutely no relevance to anyone and anything could only be made by literary critics.

awnlee jawking

@Grant

The current standard of dictionaries is rather depressing: they seem to have totally ignored some common usages. I no longer think they're necessarily a credible authority for 'appeal to authority' arguments.

Here is a blog about conflict in Creative Writing:
http://www.booksoarus.com/types-of-conflict-literature-examples/
The conflict between Man and Nature is no 4.

AJ

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Grant


You don't like the actual definition of what a plot is?


This is from Boise State University: http://edtech2.boisestate.edu/weltys/502/conceptmap.html

As you can see, they separate plot and conflict.

Plot: The chain of related events that explains to us what happens in a story

Conflict aka "the Hook": A struggle between two opposing characters or forces


So, yes, they seem to agree with you that "plot is the series of events in a story that explain to the reader what is happening."

But look at the first stage in the plot diagram:

Stage 1 - Exposition

Exposition is at the base of the mountain or the beginning of the story. This is where the author sets up the story including characters, setting, and main conflicts.


Notice "sets up the … main conflicts"

And then in Stage 2:

Stage 2 - Rising Action

The Rising Action occurs as you begin to move throughout the story. This is where conflicts start to build just like when you climb a mountain you are moving further along.


And look at the last stage (Stage 5):

Stage 5 - Resolution

The Resolution is the solution to the problem as you have reached the bottom of the mountain. The solution might not be what you want, but the conflict has been resolved.


Now the above described what plot is in a story. Conflict being an integral part of plot. Then they define conflict further:

Conflict

Every story has a conflict - a struggle between two opposing forces. The conflict may be between two people or it may be between a person and some other force, regardless, every story revolves around conflict and it's important for you to understand the various kinds of conflict.

Internal Conflict is a struggle that occurs within the main character. This struggle happens within the character's own mind.

External Conflict is a struggle that the main character has with another character, with society, or with a natural force.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

That would be the conflict.

Q. What about a group of blowhards ending up in a heated conflict over the meaning of the word 'conflict'. Does that qualify?

A. No, because there's no way to get to a 'resolution'.

Replies:   Grant  Switch Blayde
Grant

@Ross at Play

Q. What about a group of blowhards ending up in a heated conflict over the meaning of the word 'conflict'. Does that qualify?

Nope.
A disagreement may lead to a conflict, but it isn't a conflict.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

A. No, because there's no way to get to a 'resolution'.


In the Greek Comedy/Tragedy, if the protagonist doesn't successfully resolve the conflict it's a Tragedy.

Uther_Pendragon

@Switch Blayde

You just don't know how it's going to end.


I usually have an idea. After all, in a romantic story, the reader has a good idea; same with a detective story.

I try not to know in any detail, because then the action becomes mechanical. I've got into a story and found that the guy and the gal aren't going to get together. I'd rather quit and start another than bend the story in a way that the characters wouldn't go.

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