TSA Writing Tips - Twenty Basic Plots
IDEAS, PLOTS & USING THE PREMISE
After you come up with your own system for
generating ideas, the next step is to put them in some recognizable story form
(the basic plot idea), build your central conflict (the story premise sheet),
then build your character and underlying themes (the thematic premise sheet.
#1 QUEST - the plot involves the Protagonist's search for a person,
place or thing, tangible or intangible (but must be quantifiable, so think of
this as a noun; i.e., immortality).
#2 ADVENTURE - this plot involves
the Protagonist going in search of their fortune, and since fortune is never
found at home, the Protagonist goes to search for it somewhere over the
#3 PURSUIT - this plot literally involves hide-and-seek, one
person chasing another.
#4 RESCUE - this plot involves the Protagonist
searching for someone or something, usually consisting of three main
characters - the Protagonist, the Victim & the Antagonist.
ESCAPE - plot involves a Protagonist confined against their will who wants to
escape (does not include some one trying to escape their personal demons).
#6 REVENGE - retaliation by Protagonist or Antagonist against the
other for real or imagined injury.
#7 THE RIDDLE - plot involves the
Protagonist's search for clues to find the hidden meaning of something in
question that is deliberately enigmatic or ambiguous.
#8 RIVALRY -
plot involves Protagonist competing for same object or goal as another person
#9 UNDERDOG - plot involves a Protagonist competing for
an object or goal that is at a great disadvantage and is faced with
#10 TEMPTATION - plot involves a Protagonist that
for one reason or another is induced or persuaded to do something that is
unwise, wrong or immoral.
#11 METAMORPHOSIS - this plot involves the
physical characteristics of the Protagonist actually changing from one form to
another (reflecting their inner psychological identity).
TRANSFORMATION - plot involves the process of change in the Protagonist as
they journey through a stage of life that moves them from one significant
character state to another.
#13 MATURATION - plot involves the
Protagonist facing a problem that is part of growing up, and from dealing with
it, emerging into a state of adulthood (going from innocence to experience).
#14 LOVE - plot involves the Protagonist overcoming the obstacles to
love that keeps them from consummating (engaging in) true love.
FORBIDDEN LOVE - plot involves Protagonist(s) overcoming obstacles created by
social mores and taboos to consummate their relationship (and sometimes
finding it at too high a price to live with).
#16 SACRIFICE - plot
involves the Protagonist taking action(s) that is motivated by a higher
purpose (concept) such as love, honor, charity or for the sake of humanity.
#17 DISCOVERY - plot that is the most character-centered of all,
involves the Protagonist having to overcome an upheavel(s) in their life, and
thereby discovering something important (and buried) within them a better
understanding of life (i.e., better appreciation of their life, a clearer
purpose in their life, etc.)
#18 WRETCHED EXCESS - plot involves a
Protagonist who, either by choice or by accident, pushes the limits of
acceptable behavior to the extreme and is forced to deal with the consequences
(generally deals with the psychological decline of the character).
ASCENSION - rags-to-riches plot deals with the rise (success) of Protagonist
due to a dominating character trait that helps them to succeed.
DECISION - riches-to-rags plot deals with the fall (destruction) of
Protagonist due to dominating character trait that eventually destroys their
(Note: Sometimes #19 & #20 are combined into
rags-to-riches-to-rags (or vice versa) of a Protagonist who does (or doesn't)
learn to deal with their dominating character trait.)
For an in-depth look at these plots, read the excellent "20 Master Plots and
How To Build Them" by Ronald B. Tobias available through the TSA Writers Store.