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There are those who say that there are only 7 basic plots: a person vs. nature, a person vs. a person, a person vs. the environment, a person vs. machines/technology, a person vs. the supernatural, a person vs. self, and a person vs. god/religion.
That is about as basic as you can get. I don’t know about you, but I need more than that to my storyline. The above “plots” lack characters and a story; they are simply conflicts. Conflicts - lots of them - are needed to put together a plot. The events that happen and propel both your characters and your story onward is your plot.
Others propose that there are 20 basic plots: quest, adventure, pursuit, rescue, escape, revenge, the riddle, rivalry, underdog, temptation, metamorphosis, transformation, maturation, love, forbidden love, sacrifice, discovery, wretched excess, ascension, and descension.
This gets even better. Now we find that some propose 36 basic plots:
1) supplication (in which the supplicant must beg something from power in authority)
3) crime pursued by vengeance
4) vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
7) falling prey to cruelty of misfortune
9) daring enterprise
11) the enigma ( temptation or a riddle)
13) enmity of kinsmen
14) rivalry of kindmen
15) murderous adultery
17) fatal imprudence
18) involuntary crimes of love (for example, the discover that one has married a brother or sister, etc.)
19) slaying of a kinsman unrecognized
20) self-sacrificing for an ideal
21) self-sacrifice for kindred
22) all sacrificed for passion
23) necessity of sacrificing loved ones
24) rivalry of superior and inferior
26) crimes of love
27) discovery of the dishonor of a loved one
28) obstacles to love
29) an enemy loved
31) conflict with a god
32) mistaken jealousy
33) erroneous judgement
35) recovery of a lost one
36) loss of loved ones
The things suggested as your 20 basic plots and as your 36 basic plots name out the conflicts that could take place, but you are still lacking characters to go along with those conlicts. These basic plots could be used to give you ideas, but they are not something that I would depend on to try and develop your plot.
A plot consists of every part of the storyline - the people, the conflicts, the world it takes place in. An important thing to remember is that no plot is ever set in stone until the story is published. Bits and pieces or it, or huge chunks of it can be changed as you write the story, not just one time but several times.
Use things that have happened in your own life, or in the lives of others you know, as a starting point for your plot. In October of this year, a spider with lots and lots of legs, somehow managed to crawl back inside my ear. Even though the little creature had only eight legs, it felt like so many more! Anyway, I had no clue what kind of bug had crawled in my ear until it came out. For a former arachnophobiac, that was a terrifying moment. The sensation of the creature moving around in my ear was terrifying enough, but the moment it came out and I saw what had been in my ear was even worse.
What happened to me could be turned in to a plot. It could be a thriller, a mystery, or a romance. Maybe even a heart-warming reunion story or a science fiction/fantasy story. The choice is mine. It all depends on the plot I choose.
My first thought was a thriller. Another author I know immediately said that it would make a fantastic children's story. I haven't figured out how that would work, but that is what she said. I can see it as part of a mystery story. The event that happened could somehow lead to a romantic encounter or a reunion with long lost friends or family members. It could definitely be part of a science fiction/fantasy story.
Once the genre is decided upon, then the main characters need to be developed and a basic storyline formed.
If you would like to learn more about creating a plot, I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s Create A Plot Clinic. The link I’ve provided below is to buy the book from HollyLisle.com.
Create A Plot Clinic, by Holly Lisle
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