Thursday, June 24, 2021

Plot Structure Systems


When I first started learning about story structure, I first adopted the model made by Christopher Booker in "Seven Basic Plots" (a fascinating but extremely lengthy read). Once I started looking at other plotting systems, I noticed a lot of similarities. It bugged me at first, because I'd already learned one set of terminology and didn't want to learn another. But if you look at it, the systems are all very similar to one another. 

Most of these plots have, at their base, the seven-point story structure. These are the bare bones that make a story work, and a huge variety of authors use it. 

KM Weiland adds details about the key event and inciting incident. She has a ton more interesting information on her website, from how to integrate a character arc into this system, to how Marvel movies use (or don't use) structure in their movies, to archetypal character arcs based on a human's life cycle. It's all fascinating stuff!

I wanted to break down story structure further, so I took the typical three-act story and broke each act into parts. This takes a long novel and breaks it up into manageable pieces. With the overall picture managed by this outline, my creative mind has more space to work on emotion, theme, growth, detail, and other aspects of writing. More on my CVP Method here.

Save the Cat uses different terminology, but still, many of the points line up. It was originally designed for screenwriters but adapted to novels. Save the Cat has more specific story advice and details than the other methods.

Seven Basic Plots divides all stories into seven different categories. These are plots, not genres, and different examples of these can be found in most traditional genres. All seven plots follow a basic pattern.

The Hero's Journey is much older than these methods but is still in use today. It follows a specific type of story, one that is often used today.

There is more information out there to dive into. This blog gives an excellent rundown of several different methods of organization.

Feel free to compare the information and make your own guidelines--or simply wing it. Have fun!

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