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Paleontolog: https://thewritepractice.com/ . , "The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Write Stories". , , , .

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Paleontolog: 1. . https://thewritepractice.com/7-plots/ My roommate and I spent a good chunk of Sunday evening watching Avatar on FX since neither of us had seen it, and it was apparently a huge deal when I was out of the country for eleven months. As we were watching, I said to her, This is kind of like Pocahontas meets Fern Gully, but with sex. She agreed, which got me thinking about the fact that a lot of our literature, television, and film is similar. Christopher Booker had the same idea in 2004, and wrote The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Write Stories, which argues that all stories told in any medium can be categorized into one of seven archetypes. Today, were covering the first plot: Overcoming the monster. Photo by Kevin Dooley Overcoming the Monster is an underdog story where the hero sets out to destroy an evil of some kind. Generally, this evil is something larger or greater than the protagonist, and will take great courage and strength to defeat (the story would be over rather quickly otherwise). There are five stages in an Overcoming the Monster plot. 1. Anticipation Stage and Call The reader learns about the monster from afar, including its powers and reign of terror over the nearby community, and the hero accepts the call to defeat the monster. 2. Dream Stage The hero prepares to fight the monster while it is still a comfortable distance away, although the distance between the two is decreasing. In film, a training montage usually fits in right about here. 3. Frustration Stage Its here! The monster! And its even worse than we thought! The monsters power is revealed in all its terrible glory, and it looks like our hero is in way over his or her head. 4. Nightmare Stage Cue the epic battle music, because it is ON. And its not going well for our hero, who is being absolutely pummeled by the monster. But wait! Just as all hope is lost, the major chords start peeking through on the background score, because the tide of battle is about to turn. 5. The Thrilling Escape from Death, and Death of the Monster. Monster is defeated, hero emerges victorious, and the grateful people present him/her with treasure, a kingdom or something to rule over, and/or the local village hottie who is the heros perfect other half. This plot type is ancient, with Gilgamesh and the story of David and Goliath following this structure, although it still is common in contemporary films and literature, like Terminator, most of the Redwall series, and the Star Wars films. Keep in mind that these plot types are not bad. Storytelling in one form or another has been around for thousands of years, so youre bound to reuse a few plot points, and there are still opportunities to play with the identity of the monster. Instead of a physical monster, it could be an abstraction, like fear, or a mundane monster, like finals week at a university. Theres still room for creativity. PRACTICE Write a scene from one of the five stages of an Overcoming the Monster story. It doesnt have to detail all five stages; just pick one for this exercise. Once your fifteen minutes are up, post your practice in the comments, and leave notes for others who are taking the plunge. Happy writing!

Paleontolog: 2. . https://thewritepractice.com/rags-to-riches/ Everyone loves a success story, especially when it results from years of hard work and the protagonist has struggled from the depths of despair. This story type is so beloved, that it is Charles Bookers second plot type of seven: Rags to Riches. Photo by Andrew Magill Rags to Riches is essentially what the American Dream can be condensed to. A child grows up with oppressive living conditions or authority figures, usually in poverty, and overcomes them to end the story with wealth, status, a companion, and usually a kingdom of some kind. Key to the story is a point where the protagonist seems to have achieved success, but its too early, and he or she isnt ready for it, and everything comes crashing down around them. A Rags to Riches story, like the Overcoming the Monster story, also has five stages. Initial Wretchedness at Home and the Call The introduction to the physical, mental, and/or emotional squalor that is the protagonists early life. This more than anything else defines our hero from the beginning, since this plot type hinges on the heros personal growth and maturation. We see the terrible conditions that the protagonist lives through until he/she receives the call to leave, and sets out (or is forced out) into the world. Out Into the World, Initial Success Some minor struggles hit our hero, but it looks like everything is coming up roses. Our hero may have already met their prince/princess, and have experienced some victories that foreshadow their future success and glory, but overall, the hero hasnt fully matured yet, so these victories will be short-lived. The Central Crisis The oh crap moment hits. Some dark figure from the heros past might return, or the hero might lose their prince/princess, either through physical separation, or from a mental or emotional standpoint. The small victories are stripped away, and the protagonist is at their lowest point in the story. Independence and the Final Ordeal No more genies or fairy godmothers; the protagonist has only their wits and strength to pull himself or herself back up. And by golly, its done with style, with the hero realizing his/her independence and proving to all the haters that he/she is capable and worthy of reaching the final goal. Theres a final confrontation with whatever is standing between the hero and the end goal, but we all know how that ends. Final Union, Completion, and Fulfillment The hero wins! For real this time, not like the fake-out in stage two. As a reward, the protagonist claims the treasure, kingdom, and local royal stud of the preferred gender. Disney is especially fond of this plot type, bringing Cinderella, Aladdin, and The Princess and the Frog to life on the big screen. The early books of the Harry Potter series contain elements of this story type as well. As a reminder, just because a plot type is pervasive does not mean it is bad. We all love fairy tales, and theyve been around for ages, and they are clearly not going away anytime soon as long as the Magic Kingdom is still in Orlando. Tweak character goals, or play with different definitions of initial wretchedness; theres room for experimentation in these types. What are your favorite rags to riches stories? PRACTICE Just like we did with Overcoming the Monster, pick one of the five stages of the Rags to Riches plot type and write a scene from that stage for fifteen minutes. Post your practice in the comments and dont forget to comment on the work of your fellow writers.

Paleontolog: 3. . https://thewritepractice.com/the-quest/ Yeah, like youre going to see a list of plot types that doesnt include the Quest. The Quest is a search for a place, item, or person that requires the hero to leave home in order to find it. Sometimes the item is just a MacGuffin to drive the plot along; other times the thing driving the quest is specific to the storys circumstances. Either way, the hero is leaving home to find whatever the heck the story demands, and we get to come along for the ride. Were off to see the Wizard. The Quest is the plot type most likely to have a group of main characters rather than one protagonist in the main eye of the story. The rest of the party generally takes one of four appearances: A close friend who is loyal to our hero, but doesnt have much else going for him or her; A sidekick who is the polar opposite of the hero mentally, physically, and emotionally; A generic mass of identity-less bros who dont get names because theyre not alive long enough to matter; or A balanced party of brains, heart, and strength who support the hero, or who count the hero as one of their own. The Call If youve read either of the other two entries in this series, youve probably got an idea of what this entails. Kickstarts the plot and gives the hero and the rest of the party a mission to accomplish. The Journey Obviously our heroes are not going to get to their end goal that easily. Most of the journey is over enemy territory or hostile land, and obstacles pop up left and right, like dandelions in the spring. Obstacles come in several flavors, like monsters (kill/escape, rinse, repeat), temptations (see a good portion of the Odyssey for examples), a rock and a hard place (Scylla and Charybdis being the classic example), or a journey to the underworld. Amid these tests come periods of rest where the party can regain their strength (or count the bodies, if the party is the third type). Arrival and Frustration Theyre so close! Our heroes can see the Emerald City! Theyre almost there! Oh, wait, the Wizard wont actually help them until they kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Damn. Well, thats annoying. Our heroes still have some work to do before they actually complete their Quest. The Final Ordeals Now come the final tests of our heroes. Often these come in sets of three, like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Usually our main hero is the only one who can complete the final test. Success! And then our intrepid band of heroes (or just one hero, in case everyone else is dead) makes an amazing escape from death, either by running away or by killing whatever bad guys are left. The Goal Huzzah! Our hero(es) have completed their quest, and get their treasure/kingdom/princess/trip home. Most stories involving the Holy Grail are Quests, as is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Princess Bride, and Finding Nemo. If information is considered to be the sought-after item in the Quest, most police/legal procedurals could be considered miniature quests. By varying the elements of the Quest story, the plot type can still stay fresh. PRACTICE Pick one of the stages of the Quest and write a scene from that stage for fifteen minutes. Post your practice in the comments section, and check out the work of your fellow writers.


Paleontolog: 4. . https://thewritepractice.com/voyage-and-return/ I recently re-read The Phantom Tollbooth, which was one of my favorite books in grade school, and still holds up fairly well ten-to-fifteen years later. If you havent read it, I highly recommend it, but it largely centers around a boy named Milo who is convinced he lives this boring life and is content to just slump his way through it, until one day there is a mysterious package waiting for him when he gets home, which contains the titular tollbooth. Milo assembles the tollbooth, gets in a toy car, and suddenly is in a magical land of logic, numbers, words, ideas, and more puns than you can shake a stick at. He makes some friends, goes on a Quest, becomes a hero, and returns home a little more mentally stimulated and less bored. This structure is the cousin of the Quest: the Voyage and Return. Photo by Mike Baird The Voyage and Return is very common in childrens literature because it generally involves a journey to a magical land that pops up out of nowhere. The magic element is pretty sunny and light to start with, and then the darkness shows up for the hero to conquer. Once its vanquished, the hero leaves the magical land and returns home, probably having learned a valuable lesson, or having discovered something about themselves that they didnt know before. Here are the five stages of the Voyage and Return: 1. Anticipation Stage and Fall into the Other World We see the protagonist in their dreary, dull, humdrum life, and then all of a sudden, something happens to escort them to the other world. This could be a rabbit hole, a wardrobe, or just a blow to the head, and the protagonist regains consciousness in the other world. 2. Initial Fascination or Dream Stage Wow, the clouds are made of cotton candy! Or theres a talking rabbit! Or everything is suddenly colored in ways that it shouldnt be! Our hero is aware of the fact that they are no longer in Kansas, and they take the opportunity to explore their surroundings and the strange laws of physics that might be in this new place. However, no matter how awesome the new world is, Booker notes that the hero never feels completely at home there, foreshadowing their return. 3. Frustration Stage This is where the dark magic starts to creep in. The hero starts feeling a little more uncomfortable, and the wonder of the world starts to feel a little more oppressive. In The Phantom Tollbooth, this is where Milo and his companions start heading towards the Castle in the Air, over the Mountains of Ignorance, and they start meeting the demons of the Lands Beyond. Chaos hasnt completely set in, but things are looking more sinister for our hero. 4. Nightmare Stage The Queen of Hearts has unleashed her armies, Aslan has been killed on the Stone Table, and Dory is stuck in a net with a bunch of tuna. For the love of all that is good and holy, our hero better run for his life, because the shadowy element of the magical land is coming in full force. 5. Thrilling Escape and Return We can all breathe a sigh of relief, because the cavalry has arrived! Our hero has escaped from doom and makes the return home, having learned a valuable lesson about their home or themselves. In addition to The Phantom Tollbooth, other examples of Voyage and Return plots include Alice in Wonderland, Finding Nemo, and most of the Chronicles of Narnia series. Its usually a good idea to implement some character development in the protagonist over the course of the voyage, because otherwise, what was the point of the exercise? PRACTICE Write a story following the Voyage and Return structure. Write for fifteen minutes. When youre time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to a few other writers. Happy writing!

Paleontolog: 5. . https://thewritepractice.com/rebirth-plot/ I have a confession to make: Im kind of into Doctor Who. In general, sci-fi is not my thing, and if there are aliens involved, it is even less my thing, yet here we are. I think its the characters and their arcs that make me keep watching (that, and the fact that David Tennant is probably the most adorable man on the face of the planet). The series got its start in the 1960s, and is currently on its 11th Doctor. How does that work, you ask? Briefly, the Doctor is an alien who can regenerate himself when hes close to dying. Hell take on a new appearance and personality, but have the same memories. Neat way for the series to live on forever, eh? This regeneration, while not exactly its own plot, brings me to the next type of plot of Bookers seven: Rebirth. Photo by Nasas Earth Observatory Rebirth stories generally focus on villain protagonists who redeem themselves over the course of the story, after spiraling deeper into villainy and meeting a redemption figure. Redemption figures usually come in the form of a child or the protagonists other half, and they serve to remind the villain-hero what compassion or love feels like. They also help the villain-hero see what the world alignment is actually like, instead of the warped perception that the protagonist has that has given them the proclivity towards villainy. The Structure of the Rebirth Plot Type Unlike the other six plot types, Booker does not give a list of stages for stories of Rebirth. Instead he provides a basic sequence (listed here): 1. A young hero or heroine falls under the shadow of the dark power. 2. For a while, all may seem to go reasonably well. The threat may even seem to have receded. 3. Eventually the threat returns in full force, until the hero/heroine is seen imprisoned in the state of living death. 4. This continues for a long time, when it seems like the dark power has completely triumphed. 5. But finally comes the miraculous redemption, either by the hero (if the imprisoned figure is the heroine), or by a young woman or child (if the imprisoned figure is the hero). A Christmas Carol is probably the best-known example of a Rebirth story, with Scrooge as the villain-hero, and the three ghosts as redemption figures. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is another example (a lot of holiday stories, it seems, fall under this umbrella). Basically, most stories where the hero is morally ambiguous and does an about-face by the end of the story are Rebirth plots. What is your favorite rebirth story? PRACTICE Write a Rebirth arc for a classic villain in literature or film for fifteen minutes. When youre finished, post your practice in the comments, and leave some encouragement for your fellow writers.

Paleontolog: 6. . https://thewritepractice.com/basic-tragedy/ Hard to believe as it may be, were down to the final two basic plots, but theyre also the two most well known. These two basic plot types make up the two halves of the drama masks that represent classic theatre, and you can categorize most of Shakespeares plays into one of the two. Everybody dies in Shakespeares tragedies. Photo by Anthony Topper Todays basic plot: the tragedy. What Is Tragedy? In sixth grade English, when I was first exposed to Shakespeare, I was taught essentially that a tragedy is a play where everyone dies in the end. Clearly theres more depth than that, but you have to start small with eleven-year-olds. In Bookers realm, a tragedy focuses on a villain protagonist, and the reader sees them delve further into darkness and evil before their ultimate death or destruction at the hands of the hero. His prime example is that of King Lear, in which the title character recognizes his error, but its too late to repent by the time he figures it out, and he dies. Here are the stages of a Tragedy: Anticipation Stage The tragic hero gets it into his or her head that something is missing, and they want it. This might be power, fame, a specific love interest, or something else, but the protagonist has their motivation for the disaster dominoes that are about to fall. Dream Stage The tragic hero sets out on their path to obtain their MacGuffin. Something occurs that tells the reader that this is a no-turning-back situation (Booker cites Fausts deal with the devil), and things start to go strangely well for the protagonist. He might be well on his way down the path of evil, but no one is calling him out on it, or no one can stop him, so he proceeds further into the depths. Frustration Stage Right about here is where the tragic hero hits his first roadblocks. They might be small annoyances, but in dealing with them, the protagonist commits additional dark acts that seal his fate and alert the reader that the only way this can end is badly. Nightmare Stage The tragic heros plan is unraveling, and he can sense that an opposing force or fate is closing in. Hes increasingly paranoid and living in fear of whats to come. Destruction or Death Wish Stage Our protagonist breathes his last, whether at the hands of his enemies or due to some final act of violence. Either way, his death isnt mourned much, and the darkness that surrounded him dissipates, and there is much rejoicing. In a way, Tragedy is a much more cynical version of the Rebirth, or the flip side of the Overcoming the Monster story, since most monsters follow this trajectory. Classic examples are Macbeth and Hamlet, and a lot of films about organized crime also follow this trajectory (Goodfellas, Scarface, The Departed). PRACTICE Pick one of the stages of the Tragedy and write a scene from that stage for fifteen minutes. Post your practice in the comments section, and check out the work of your fellow writers.

Paleontolog: 7. . https://thewritepractice.com/the-7-basic-plots-comedy/ Ive recently gotten my roommates to watch Arrested Development with me, which is great because Netflix released the new season a couple weeks ago (which I still havent watched), so the three of us are working through the first three seasons together. Were pretty much all snickering through each episode. But thats the whole point of comedy, right? Welcome to the last of the seven basic plots: the Comedy. Whos Spong Bobs heroine? A Comedy is a work in which the hero and heroine are destined to be together, but something is preventing them from doing so. Over the course of the story, whatever is keeping them apart is removed from the equation, usually after a great deal of increasing confusion and miscommunication, which usually results in mass hilarity. In the end, the confusion is cleared up, the bad guy is punished, and everyone gets married. The structure of a Comedy according to Booker is less rigid than the other six plot types, but for the most part there are three acts to the story. The Shadow of Confusion Were introduced to the hero and heroine, who are clearly marked as destined to be together (along with possibly a few emerging beta couples), but theyre being separated. This could be physical separation (maybe they havent met yet), or emotional separation (see A Midsummer Nights Dreams Demetrius and Helena for a good example of this). Either way, theres confusion, miscommunication, and frustration, and the designated couples arent hooking up. It Gets Worse The confusion previously mentioned gets even more convoluted. The darkness separating everyone is at its thickest, and the tension for the characters is at its peak. Things are going disastrously for our hero and heroine. The Confusion is Lifted Someone or something explains the misunderstandings, all the characters breathe collective sighs of relief, weddings are arranged, and the bad guy is either punished or repents in time for the engagement party. The key in Comedy is the execution and transition between the stages. Also, its important to keep in mind that Comedy in this definition isnt necessarily funny; the name just indicates that everyone lives happily ever after. But as anyone who has seen Singin In the Rain or read The Importance of Being Earnest can attest, confusion is a great mine for humor. PRACTICE Take fifteen minutes and write a scene of traditional comedy. Post your practice in the comments and leave notes for your fellow writers. Have fun with this one!

Paleontolog: 8. ! https://thewritepractice.com/bonus-plots/ So we went through Christopher Bookers seven basic plots, and maybe youre feeling a little sad. Whats left? That surely cant be all! Youre in luck. Its not. Photo by Daniel Lobo Bookers seven basic plots are not an exhaustive summary of every plot known to literature or film. Theyre just the main seven that he has identified through Jungian influence. Actually, he brings up an additional two plots that dont have extensive stages the way that the other plots do. These are the Rebellion Against The One and The Mystery. The Rebellion Against The One This plot type focuses on a solitary hero or heroine who ends up drawn to some power or force (which rules the world of the hero) against their will. The hero spends the first half of the storyline insistent that he is right, and the power is wrong, but over the course of the story he comes to realize he has a very limited perception of reality, and that the reverse is true. In the end, the hero recognizes the governing forces right to rule. Examples of the Rebellion plot include the book of Job in the Bible, and darker versions in both Brave New World and 1984. The Mystery The second bonus plot is the Mystery. If youre at all familiar with Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or Encyclopedia Brown, you know this plot well. In a Mystery plot, a riddle is posed, usually in the form of a crime that has been committed, and the hero or heroine spends the rest of the story solving the riddle. Combinations of Plots In addition to these two bonus plots, the other seven can be woven together to form more complex plots. The Wizard of Oz is a blend of the Quest and the Voyage and Return, with a dash of Overcoming the Monster for good measure. The first book in the Harry Potter series alone has Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, and the Quest, before we get to the darker storylines in the later books. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has basically every type of plot except for Comedy woven together. The combinations are endless, and as a result, we can continue to write in these basic seven plot types and still keep stories fresh and new. After reviewing all seven (plus two) basic plot types, which is your favorite? PRACTICE Pick two or more of the plot types weve covered over the past seven weeks, and blend them together. Spend fifteen minutes writing a scene from this hybrid plot, and post your practice in the comments. Be sure to check out the work of your fellow writers.