On Plots

What is a plot? It’s a sequence of events, with one special property.

A sequence of events is this happened, then that happened. A plot is this happened, then that happened, because.

Some say there are three basic plot engines:

  1. Person against nature
  2. Person against person
  3. Person against God

“Person against person” includes as a sub-group “person against self.”

Some say there are five basic plot engines. They are:

  1. The brave little tailor
  2. If this goes on
  3. The person who learned better
  4. Who am I?
  5. How do we get home?

Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol is an example of “The person who learned better.” Dickens’ story has such a strong plot engine that it’s survived everything from Mr. Magoo to the Muppets.

Some folks add “Reader, I married him” to the list. Others add “A person leaves town” (and its inverse, “A stranger comes to town”).

I like to say that the oldest engines pull the heaviest freight.

2 thoughts on “On Plots

  1. There’s also “Who are these people and why are they shooting at me?”, which can be combined to good effect with #4 or #5, with a bit of #1 thrown in for reader identification.

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