Plot is a four letter word....

.... but not the profane kind.

I've been plotting a new book so let's talk about plots - Master Plots. Depending on which expert you read, there are only 2 or 16 or 20 or 36 different plots ever devised. Actually Rudyard Kipling believed there were 69 master plots. The number varies because many "experts" in stating the higher number of plots are areally just calling differing patterns of basic plots as separate plots.

Believe me, you aren't going to create a new one. Every story ever told can be boiled down to a basic plots.

Here's a list from MASTER PLOTS by Ronald B. Tobias with some examples. I didn't find a site that sells the book new. My copy is old, but I enjoy rereading it.

Adopt your own list from Tobias's book or Polti's book of 36 Dramatic Plots or whatever floats your boat.

1. THE QUEST, search for a person, place, or thing either tangible or intangible. Don Quixote, Grapes of Wrath, The Wizard of Oz. The object of the search must be everything to the protagonist not just an excuse for the action. It's a character plot - a plot of the mind.

2. ADVENTURE, resembles the quest but is an action plot - a plot of the body. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, any Clive Cussler book.

3. PURSUIT, literary version of hide and seek. Jaws, Romancing the Stone, Moby Dick. The Fugitive

4. RESCUE, a physical plot in which the hero tries to regain that which is lost. The Princess Bride, The Magnificent Seven

5. ESCAPE, a physical plot, protagonist physically wants to escape confinement. The Great Escape

6. REVENGE, retaliation by the protagonist against the antagonist for real or imagined injury. Hamlet, The Outlaw Josey Wales
7. RIDDLE, most pure mysteries which seek to solve a riddle. Any Agatha Christie

8. RIVALRY. a struggle for power or two people having the same goal. Mutiny on the Bounty, The Odd Couple, Moby Dick

9. UNDERDOG, similar to rivalry but the match up is between unequals. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Cinderella

10. TEMPTATION, to be induced or persuaded to do something that is either unwise, wrong, or immoral. Fatal Attraction or maybe Lolita

11. METAMORPHOSIS, most of the master plots are grounded in reality but this is magical and is sbout change which covers a lot of territory. Dracula, Beauty and the Beast

12. TRANSFORMATION, this is grounded in reality, astudy of humanity is the study of change. We are always becoming. This deals with process of change the protagonist undergoes through life. The Last Picture Show, Catch 22, Jekyll and Hyde, Ordinary People, My Fair Lady

13. MATURATION, growing up. Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations

14. LOVE, boy meets girl, overcomes obstacles, and wins love. Much Ado About Nothing, Jane Eyre

15. FORBIDDEN LOVE, the love involves some social tabu. There are still some tabus in modern society.Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter.

16. SACRIFICE, characters sacrifice themselves because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. High Noon, Casablanca

17. DISCOVERY, dedicated to the pursuit of learning about oneself. Portrait of a Lady

18. WRETCHED EXCESS, pushes the limits of acceptable behavior either by choice or accident about people who inhabit the fringes of society. Apocalypse Now, Wall Street, Clean and Sober

19. ASCENSION, the rise from humble beginnings to greatness.

20. DESCENSION, the fall prominence to rock bottom. Some stories contain both ascension and descension like The Godfather, All the King's Men, The Elephant Man, Dark Victory, Citizen Kane, Death of a Salesman

Knowing where your story fits can give it depth as well as help you describe it succinctly to editors, agents, and readers.

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