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?
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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 www.aklanier.com or http://annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com. Her stories may be purchased at www.thewildrosepress.com.