October 23, 2019 Class 5: Basic Plots, that which holds the work together

Plots The 7 or 9 or Basic Plots

Your assignment for the week is to continue writing and bring your best three pages to class to read.

This last week we discussed the most common plots used by writers. I must say that you can find lists of even 1,462 basic plots but, I believe this material will be most useful for you without overwhelming you.

Even if you are writing a memoir or biography, it is important that your work has a plot or spine that holds all the bones together.

Below you will find two sites that should be useful as you review what we discussed in class as well as another related site. I encourage you to go on to read through the original sources listed here as you work on your writing.



B. Booker’s first seven basic plots

  1.  Overcoming the Monster: in which the hero must venture to the lair of a monster which is threatening the community, destroy it, and escape (often with a treasure).
  2. Rags to Riches: in which someone who seems quite commonplace or downtrodden but has the potential for greatness manages to fulfill that potential.
  3.  The Quest: in which the hero embarks on a journey to obtain a great prize that is located far away.
  4.  Voyage and Return: in which the hero journeys to a strange world that at first is enchanting and then so threatening the hero finds he must escape and return home to safety.
  5. Comedy: in which a community divided by frustration, selfishness, bitterness, confusion, lack of self-knowledge, lies, etc. must be reunited in love and harmony (often symbolized by marriage).
  6.  Tragedy: in which a character falls from prosperity to destruction because of a fatal mistake.
  7.  Rebirth: in which a dark power or villain traps the hero in a living death until he/she is freed by another character’s loving act.

The next two he later added but dislikes:

  1. Rebellion Against ‘The One’: in which the hero rebels against the all-powerful entity that controls the world until he is forced to surrender to that power.
  2. Mystery: In which an outsider to some horrendous event (such as a murder) tries to discover the truth of what happened.

Booker’s five stages used in each of the above plots are the following.

  1. Anticipation: in which the initial setting is established and reader is introduced to the hero/heroine, who is somehow constricted or unfulfilled.
  2. Dream: in which the hero embarks on the road toward a possible resolution and experiences some initial success.
  3. Frustration: in which the hero’s limitations and the strength of the forces against him become more obvious, make attaining the resolution seem increasingly difficult.
  4. Nightmare: in which a final ordeal takes place that determines the resolution.
  5. Miraculous Escape/Redemption/Achievement of the Prize or (in the case of Tragedy) the Hero’s Destruction. Booker uses various terms for this stage, depending on the basic plot. But in all cases, this stage is some sort of Resolution.


The Dramatica model and others (such as the W-Plot) divide stories into four stages. Each stage begins and ends with a key event which Dramatica calls a Driver. Other terms for these key events are Turning Points (ala Michael Hague), or Trigger Events (ala the W-Plot). Regardless the term, each of these events are changes that send the story off in a new direction (except for the final one, which marks the end of the story).

Guest Post: Five Plot Structures for Bestselling Novels   By Katja L Kaine

  1. The Hero’s Journey
  2. Using a Genre Story Beat Template: 3 acts
  3. The Pantser : they have story arc questions bouncing around their brain to ensure their story has momentum, such as:
    1. What is the inciting incident that begins the story?
    2. What events will raise the stakes?
    3. What does the character desire?
    4. What does the character fear?
    5. How will the character change?
    6. What are some of the themes or messages I want the reader to walk away with?
  4. The Snowflake Method is all about starting simple and adding layer after layer of detail.
  5. The Goal to Decision Cycle

The cycle goes like this:

  1. At the beginning of a scene, your character should have a goal, but…
  2. They meet obstacles to achieving that goal
  3. They do their best to overcome these obstacles, but despite their best effort the scene ends in disaster!

This leads you to another scene, where:

  1. The character is reacting emotionally to the disaster
  2. Then the character is faced with a dilemma about what action to take next
  3. Once they have made their decision, that provides them with a new goal…

And the whole cycle starts again.

AND A FREEBIE to answer your questions about Comma Use



Please note that I have provided the source for all material used here, and I recommend that you go on to the original sites for further information and development of the material.

No copyright infringement is intended

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