Good morning world! After a couple weeks of research and deliberation, I can finally give you all the Writing Advice post I promised two weeks ago! (For that post, click here).
This week, as my third installment of “Book Writing Basics”, I will talking about Plot types! When you are creating a book, one of the things you may want to consider when you are starting out is what type of plot you would like to have! Granted, I did not, and I have not used plot types to structure my book(s), but that is simply because I knew what I wanted to do when I started. If you are a bit lost in how you want your story to flow, then hopefully this post will give you some insight as to what path you would like to take!
Voyage and Return: “Voyage and return”, as its name suggests, it is all about a journey. Your protagonist leaves on a journey, faces many obstacles to overcome along the way and then returns “home”. The way to vary it up from here is both why the protagonist wants to go on this journey and the obstacles they will face along the way. You main character could be journeying for medicine for a sickly lover or relative and they only have so long to get the right pill (herb, stone, etc). The obstacles for that scenario would be Time, for the hero needs to hurry if they are to save their loved one, and also any monsters, greedy merchants/assassins/bounty-hunters, or the protagonist’s own mindset that gets in the way. Regardless of why they leave or if they succeed in their mission, they will always return home, or from where they started. (The Exception – as there always is – is if the journey found its conclusion and the hero found their happiness/tragedy in another place aside from where they started).
Tragedy: This is a very well know plot type and many writers, from Shakespeare to John Green have mastered the art of pulling at the reader’s heartstrings as the characters’ world comes crashing down around them. What you have to keep in mind, if you decide to pursue this, is to keep an eye to emotion. Of course, all stories need emotion, the book becomes dull without it, but in tragedies, it is even more important. The goal of a tragedy is to have the reader heartbroken at the end. They need to feel for that character and feel their pain. This means that it is vital that you spend the course of the story (with all its smaller ups and downs) really focusing on the characters and who they are, and why the reader should feel as they feel, adore, and or relate to them. I remember reading a story many years back, I don’t remember the book name or the author, but what I do remember is that it started as a very sweet story about a boy and an orphaned fawn. The entire story was predicated on their relationship and how strongly they had bonded, despite the boy’s parents’ disapproval. Then, at the very last second – literally 2 pages before the book ended – the boy was told (by his parents) that the deer had imprinted on him too much, and therefore had to be shot. And so the boy did. With his own hands, he shot his best friend. I was absolutely sobbing. I had never seen it coming and it was the worst. The point is (and I do have one around here somewhere) that if you are going to dash your reader’s heart, do not let on that the character is to suffer so tragically until the very end. As I mentioned in my Writing advice post “Prequel or not to Prequel,” your character may be doomed, but chances are, they don’t know that, so write their actions as if everything will always be fine.
Rebirth: On a rather different note from “Tragedy”, this could almost come off the cusp of a great tragedy. “Rebirth” is all about starting with deplorable conditions and rising. You start with your awful conditions (which could be anything from, the character is battling a mental disease, or the country/world is under a totalitarian-type rule) and then soon after some driven effort by your character, everything seems to be alright, but then BU-BLAM everything is not alright and your character is in a worse state than they started. From here, the story can go two ways: 1) The character overcomes the suffering to finally win the day; or, 2) Someone else (preferably someone you’ve already introduced into your story) saves the hero and then together, they save the day. As per usual, you can always turn that smile upside and make everything go horribly wrong despite some pretty desperate struggle, but let’s just pretend that you want your story to end well and leave this as it is.
Rags to Riches: From poor boy to king, this plot type is all about starting from nothing to having everything. Typically the arch goes something like this: Main character is ridiculously poor but finds a way to rise above (whether by luck or by hard work, or being discovered for a hidden talent) and they become wealthy and have everything they could ever want. However, this is too short for all of your story, so we follow the curve back down. That character, with their new-found wealth and fortune, loses it (they were too greedy, someone takes it away, etc). Then comes some self-discovery. In order to climb their way to where they were, they have to recognize what they did wrong the first time and defeat whatever it was that shoved him down. Other plots may take the “Rags to Riches” scenario and practice it more metaphorically. This concept can be applied to someone being lonely, finding love, losing it, and then finding it again, or a child who is a nobody until he is found out he can tell the future, and then he become earth’s prophet, which is too much pressure for him to shoulder. You get the picture. If you decide to pursue “Rags to Riches”, think about different ways that you can portray the same overarching idea.
Quest: Quest, like “Voyage and Return”, is predicated on a journey, but it’s predicated much more on the task that drove the character to journey in the first place. While “Voyage and Return” is more about the adventure and then narrowly making it “home”, “Quest” is all about the mission at hand. Your main character in question starts out in a place that needs reform, whether it is the city, the country, or simply their own personal life. The character sees a solution to the problems, but first they need to go get it. So they leave and either just by themselves or with a companion, they set out to get said solution. Of course, there are bumps in the road; people who don’t want things to change or are just greedy. Then at the end, everything isn’t as simple as it seems. The solution isn’t the End-All-Be-All that everyone hoped it would be, and one thing is missing. Fast-forward a little bit, and the hero finds the True Solution, the Final Piece of the Puzzle, and saves the day. The hero gets everything they ever wanted out of the quest and everything is good. That is … until the sequel 😉
Overcoming the Monster: Last, but not least, “Overcoming the Monster”. This is all about the Big Bad (monster, overlord, greater evil, etc). In other words, there is a great threat looming over the character and or the public, and it is their job, as designated Hero *cue trumpets* to save the day. But defeating said monster is not nearly as easy as the hero thought, even after all the thought they put into defeating it. Because of their failed efforts, things get worse, and the hero and their companions have to figure out a new strategy for defeating the Monster. Thus begins the rebuilding of the resistance, and eventually they try again. At first, they seem to be failing again, but they pull through and narrowly escape with their own life. “Pacific Rim” is a good (movie) example of this plot type. It’s man vs monster and at first man wins, and then they fail miserably as the monsters get stronger and stronger. After much work, they put together a better team… and, well, I hold myself back from explaining/spoiling it all. In any case, if a Big Bad Something is the driving force behind your story-line, then you fit nicely into the “Overcoming the Monster” category. One thing to watch out for, though, in your villain – which is something I will have a separate post for eventually – is their motivations. Even if they are “mindless” monsters, they have to have an instinct that makes them such a threat to Human Kind. (I.e., they’re being abused, in danger, hungry, or they are conquers by nature.)
And that is all for today, thank you for putting up with my mammoth of a post. If you have anything to add to the above plot types or want to share how your story fits the plot, please leave a comment below!
As a quick note, I took inspiration for this post from some handy information pictures on Pinterest, the link to their author and her blog being here. If you would like to see the abbreviated versions of these Plot structures, feel free to check it out!
Again, thank you all for reading and I hope this helped you figure out your own books!
See you next week!