Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Monday, January 31, 2011


My guest today is fellow Rose, Anna Kathryn Lanier. In a moment of wild luck, I won a copy of her latest release by leaving a comment on her blog. My first win! I read A Gift Beyond All Measure, her charming and, at time, humorous novel in two settings. I'm thrilled to have her guest blog at Vintage Vonnie. Welcome Anna Kathryn...

Thanks, Vonnie for having me today. I’m going to write on a subject I know very little about--plotting. Thank heavens for experts.

I don’t plot. I’m a panster. I’ve tried to plot, but it doesn’t work well for me. My characters do what they want to do. Still I decided to discuss plotting today. I’m going to reference two books, 20 MASTER PLOTS & HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald B. Tobias and CREATING SHORT FICTION by Damon Knight.

20 MASTER PLOTS is a very compressive book which explains “how to take timeless storytelling structure and make them current.” Tobias also explains the difference between “physical plot, where the story arises primarily from external causes, and character plot, where the story arises from character.” I write mostly character plot, thus the reason my characters write their own story.

But what is plot? Some say it is the skeleton of a story. Tobias says, “plot is a force. It is a force that attracts all atoms of language (words, sentences, paragraphs) and organizes them according to a certain sense (character, action, location).” Knight says, “A plot, then, is a series of imaginary events designed to create anticipation at a high pitch.” The short explanation is that plot is a plan of action.

Knight gives a “plot skeleton,” a concise listing of plot:

1) A believable and sympathetic central character;

2) His urgent and difficult problem;

3) His attempt to resolve the problem, which fail and make his situation more desperate;

4) The crises, his last chance to win

5) The successful resolution, brought by means of the central character’s own courage, ingenuity, etc.

By the way, using the above formula will help you write a blurb or pitch—just the facts, ma’am.

Knight goes on to give a list of common plotting faults and what to do about them. One example is “Story line wanders, never seems to get anywhere.” Diagnosis: “Author has started writing the story without any clear idea of its direction.” Treatment: “Give your central character a stronger motivation and make things more difficult for her. Rewrite without looking at the old version. “

Now, you may be wondering, what ARE the 20 Master Plots, those basic plots where at least one is included in any story? I could write a blog just on the 20 Master Plots, but for now, I’m only going to list them, along with a literary example.

Quest – searching for a person, place, or thing, tangible or intangible, character driven The Wizard of Oz

Adventure – similar to the Quest plot, but this one is action driven Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Pursuit – a literary version of hide-in-seek; one person chases another The Hunt for Red October

Rescue – depends on three characters (protagonist, victim and antagonist), who serve the plot The Magnificent Seven

Escape –a physical plot, concentrating its energy on the mechanics of capture and escape Papillon

Revenge – retaliation for real or imagined injury Hamlet

The Riddle – a puzzle that needs to be solved The Maltese Falcon (any mystery/suspense)

Rivalry – two people have the same goal The Lord of the Flies

Underdog – a form of the Rivalry plot, the protagonist is at a disadvantage and is faced with overwhelming odds One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Temptation – to be induced or persuaded to do something that is either unwise, wrong or immoral Fatal Attraction

Metamorphosis – physical characteristics of the protagonist actually change from one form to another Beauty and the Beast

Transformation – change in the protagonist, but not in form as in Metamorphosis The Last Picture Show

Maturation – growing up The Catcher in the Rye

Love – obstacles that keep the lovers apart (any romance novel, especially A Gift Beyond All Measure)

Forbidden Love – crossing the line into forbidden territory Romeo and Juliet

Sacrifice – an offering of love, honor, charity A Tale of Two Cities

Discovery – the pursuit of learning about the self, understanding who they are The Portrait of a Lady

Wretched Excess – Extreme circumstances Othello (jealousy)

Ascension – raising from humble beginnings to great prominence – The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Descension – falling from a high place because of a tragic flaw in character All The King’s Men

Which plot does you current story fall under?
~~~~~~~~~~  ~~~~~~~~~~~  ~~~~~~~~~~
Anna Kathryn Lanier started writing while still in high school. Her first novel was a futuristic Armageddon tale with romantic elements. She wrote her first romances in her early twenties, but her only submission was rejected. After putting her writing on hold for nearly two decades to raise two daughters and play housewife, Anna Kathryn picked up the pen again, so to speak—this is the computer age—seven years ago. She has completed three romance novels to date. She also enjoys writing short stories. Her first short story, Happily Ever After was published in 2005. She has since published five more short stories. The Priceless Gift, a contemporary western, was released in November, 2007, is a #1 best seller at The Wild Rose Press.

A Cowboy's Dream, is also contemporary western, (Nov. 2008) and is a mega rewrite of Happily Ever After. Salvation Bride, a historical western is the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll 2009 Best Short Romance Story. Gift Beyond All Measure (Dec. 2010) is a sequel to The Priceless Gift. Anna Kathryn lives in Texas with her husband and three cats. She has two grown daughters and three grandchildren. She is pursuing a bachelor degree in history at a local college.

Visit her at or Her stories may be purchased at


Susan M said...

Love the post. You always come up with an interesting, informative lesson.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Susan. Thanks for stopping by. I'm usually desparate for a subject, so glad people find theim Like I said, thank goodness for experts!

Patricia Preston said...

I have the 20 Master Plot book. Some great ideas and instruction in it. Enjoyed your post!

Christie Craig said...

Great post Anna. And I love the pic' of you in cowboy duds.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Patricia and Christie. Thanks for stopping by. 20 Master Plots is a great refernce book. Thanks, Christie, I like that picture, too.

lizarnoldbooks said...

Anna, Great idea for help writing a blurb. Excellent post!
Liz Arnold
Message to Love
The Wild Rose Press

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi. Liz, thanks for stopping by. Yep, use that basic formula and you get a short concise blurb. If you're like me, you tend to go off on tandgents that don't matter in the blurb.

Emma Lai said...

Hi, Anna. Lots of information. I too am a panster. I just started a story with a rough idea in my head for a Rescue, but it has switched to Discovery. The characters just refused to go in the direction I envisioned!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Emma! Great to 'see' you. I thought about figuring out which plot A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE was, but decided it was too much I mean, I know it's 'love,' but there's probably another plot in there, too.

Vonnie Davis said...

Anna, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a great post. Your visit received over 60 hits. I, too, love the pic! Best wishes. And DO come back soon.

P.L. Parker said...

I'm a pantser too. I'd have to say my current is somewhat on the Sacrifice side of things.