He then tracked down and captured the real villain which action became the stepping off point for the next film. And romance is always present. But do your own studies. Star Trek original series was great at mixing up the plot structures in all those episodes. Each structure would play center stage, with the others entering and exiting the main story. Plots are more detailed and follow the necessary requirements of plot turns, pinches, twists, etc. These get more specific into locations, times, and permissible actions. Straight adventure, with a nice tragic romance sub-plot.
Stuck mainly in the Western genre, but with techno-mysteries for the Sci-Fi crowd. You knew the villain from the outset. So that made it adventure. Once you have the differences between theme, structure, plot, and genre then you can proceed with your muse-interview. As you train your muses to have their answers ready, then you can proceed to discover what the characters are all about.
And of course, the great non-fiction books mix other structures in them. This is where the Big Idea and even memoir come in. Big Idea books sell well where they engage the reader on a personal level. They usually sell a mystery with inductive reasoning. All started out as essays, and then were edited into a book. The articles and book followed his research. Mysteries work well, as you have a person trying to achieve their own happiness the underlying purpose to all plots, per Cook and they find themselves opposed in some fashion.
Figuring out a solution to that problem is the plot, the structure is mystery. The reader follows along with the detective, trying to sort it all out. Of course, this also works with other subplots. No one would seriously want to re-read them for an escape or diversion. Second-hand shelf-stuffers, and land-fill. Like mass-market paperbacks. A Person Subjected to Adverse Conditions, Engaging in a difficult enterprise when promised a reward for high achievement, Emerges from a trying ordeal with sorely garnered wisdom.
And the rest of the book follows that theme. The book is only engaging as it is well written and involves the reader with useful data, in a rational format, with emotional involvement.
Why story trumps plot
Logos, Ethos, Pathos. Most academic and how-to books are not memorable.
They are dry and dull. Telling stories is the most effective way to keep readers interested. Plotto Genie: the Endless Story. Mastering Plotto. Plotting the Short Story. Also published on Medium. Just a comment for you to fix the text. Long, sure, but you nailed the definition of plot to force me to "bare bones" my works. Take that , O Keepers of the Plotless Drivel! You can't turn a ship without a rudder, after all. Not only is your blog my hero, it's also very funny and one of the few that simultaneously teaches and amuses.
I'm getting smarter while laughing out loud. Bravo, Nathan Bransford. Is this a plot? Thanks so much! Excellent post, and so helpful. I just spent an hour or two crafting my log-line with the help of your post and a related one by Kristen Lamb. It's a lot harder than it looks, isn't it? But I want to thank you for your great advice, so freely given. As a wannabe writer from my early teenage years I had lots and lots of started themes and stories but I could not finish them because somewhat they became watered down at some point. But this post pointed some stupidities I made while writing.
The finished story arcs rushed to my head now, so clear easy write. So thank you, Mr. Bransford, words cannot express how grateful I am. Thanks again, and If I ever get published I promise to put dedication to you as the person who opened my eyes for the great fun that writing is. Everyone has said, "Thank you. Your blog has given me tremendous insight. I appreciated the analogy about the door and now I am anxious to scrap ideas to come up with a plot. I'm still struggling with how explicit the conflict has to be in a one or two sentence summary of a novel. If I say "An unlikely friendship between a squirrel and a talking peanut leads to the discovery of a lost Confederate treasure and a gang of pirate chickens" would I have to spell out "the chickens are out to find the treasure for nefarious reasons and our unlikely duo has to save the day" or is that understood from context?
Do you have to say "and therefore there will be conflict" or can it be implied? Your email address will not be published. Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content Skip to primary sidebar. Subscribe to the blog! Receive the blog directly in your inbox when there are new posts!
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Subscribe for Free! Comments Yeah, but wow, that was really helpful. I also just realised how little I actually understand the fine points of writing… Off to hit the books! Thanks, Nathan. I do like the door analogy. The three basic plots are Man vs. Perfect timing, Nathan! How could I have missed something so simple?
Really good. My writing lair is really a procrastinatorium. Hey, this is great. Definitely a WOW post!
8 Elements of a Story Explained: Setting, Character, Plot, Conflict, Theme
You missed your chance to use a well worn title. Ask any eight year old what a book is about and they will give you plot. Blogger since blogger is down for the count. Thank you for the post. Your timing is excellent. I have a date with my plot board this evening, so thanks for your timely and awesome post! I think I see where you were going, but I find your second example to be more accurate. Premise: When an eccentric scientist figures out how to clone dinosaurs back to life from mosquito blood trapped in fossilzed amber, he creates a unique theme park on a remote island which proves to be beyond difficult to manage.
That may be the answer to all my problems. Joseph- I intentionally used two very different books to show it applies to both literary fiction and genre fiction. Wow, Nathan, Thank you! I mean it! You are a very good guy! I thought the three basic plots were chocolate, brandy old-fashioneds and cheesecake. Thanks for another of the most cogent writing blogs anywhere. You deserve something. Add me to the list of people thanking you for this post.
What makes a plot
Lucidity is good. Thank you for this … very helpful. Nathan, thank you. That may very well be the single most helpful post I have ever read. Character over plot? I prefer the second. I add to the chorus: Great post. This is one for the archives! Thumbs up on articulating plot so so memorably. Ah, she says, scales falling from eyes.
What exactly is a theme of a story, and how can I recognize it?
Am I correct in assuming the same applies to a memoir? Oh well. Thank you for the awesome post! I needed this post right at this moment. You are great. That was a really great definition of plot. Thank you, MzAuthor. Wow, one of your best posts! Thank you for this — excellent post, and Heidi — spot on as well. Interesting analogy. Wow, that was really helpful, it helped me figur out what my novel is truely about. Priceless information, Nathan, thank you!
There's some song lyrics in this, y'all. Just give me credit for the words :. Another way people are confused about plot: Is this a plot? That's the setting, not the plot. Plot focuses on the protagonist. When we explore the turning point moments and muse again about why we are writing a memoir, theme begins to rise up like mountains at the edge of the plains. This is often an unconscious process, and we need to write some stories before theme becomes clearer. An example of theme: Lit , by Mary Karr, is the third volume of her trilogy of memoirs. This last book is about her descent into and her recovery from alcoholism through finding religion.
But the arc of the story takes us from her being lost in using alcohol to numb herself, to becoming sober and finding herself again. The arc of his story begins with his earliest memories and ends with his leaving his home to come to New York. There are other themes and topics too—the Catholic Church, death, his mother Angela, his abandoning father, and dying, starving siblings.
If you look at the book in terms of turning points, you will see that he includes what he considers significant events that shift the plot into new directions, each one adding force and direction to the trajectory of the story. What is a plot: a plot is a series of dramatized events that show how characters encounter obstacles and challenges, and how they solve their problems.
The protagonist is different by the end of the book than he is at the beginning. The arc of the narrative can be divided into Act One, Two, and Three, the usually invisible structure of a book, play, or movie—though in a play this structure is overt. In Act One, the characters are introduced, the story problem is set up, and we are drawn into the world of the story. Since real life does become more complicated, the way that plot works is imitated by life. Or is it the other way around? In Act Three, the threads and layers of development reach a peak at the crisis and climax of the story.
Here the character is tested, where the true depth of learning and transformation is revealed. The climax is the highest level of tension and conflict that the protagonist must resolve as the story comes to a close.
Dramatic structure, the narrative arc, is a mythic structure, a deeply satisfying resolution that fits with our need to create pattern and perspective in the midst of chaos of real life. That is why memoir is so challenging—we are trying to create story out of chaos, to make sense of the irrational and nonsensical impulses that drive all human beings. When you lift your own significant plot moments out of the confusion, you will have the basic spine of your story.
Linda Joy Myers, Ph. Through her workshops, coaching, and speaking engagements, Linda inspires people to capture their stories.