Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Plot Thickens

At one time, David Morrell says, he was taught that there are five types of plots:

1) Human against Human. 2) Human against Nature. 3) Human against himself/herself. 4) Human against Society. 5) Human against God.

Morrell thinks there's only one, and it goes like this: Somebody wants something, and somebody else wants to stop them from getting it. This is conflict, which is at the core of plot. But for a story, Morrell says, you also have to have "why." You have to know the motivations of the antagonists.

Sounds pretty simple when you put it that way.


JR's Thumbprints said...

But nothing's ever that simple when it comes to the actual writing process.

Susan Miller said...

In her book, "bird by bird", Ann Lamott writes, "Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know, are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen."

I like this. I think I like it because I understand that conflict is a part of human existence. Thus, if we write in the context of truth we cannot avoid conflict.

It seems as if you said that somebody said or maybe just you said (too lazy to go back and look) that a good piece of fiction contains conflict on every page. That startled me (conflict), and I wondered if I would ever be able to write a good piece of fiction without growing weary of conflict. Then I started to read a good piece of fiction and noticed to my amazement that you were right. It did contain conflict, even in the most slightest sense, on every page. And I started to understand and lose some of my initial fear. Thank you, Charles.

This is always a good place to come for great advice.

Sidney said...

I think I mentioned it in comments on someone else's blog, but I once heard an author observe there are two story templates - Christ and Arthur.

Christ = protagonist who succeeds

Arthur = protagonist who doesn't (Camelot is lost)

In either that or Morrell's the point is good. The basic tree is always the same, how you hang the ornaments is what makes it different.

Jr. makes a good point, also, it ain't ever easy picking and hanging those ornaments.

etain_lavena said...

JA seems like it, but when you have to keep sight of what will be taken, what this one wants, what this one needs and in the end it is just mumbo jumbo I get outa my brain....hihihih:)
Great info;)

Michelle's Spell said...

I like when things are broken down because it helps when I get so lost in the writing process that I can't see up from down. It's very much like JR said -- nothing is simple there. But when you analyze it (this speaks to Susan's point), you see it and it becomes less scary.

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks everyone for posting. Yeah, going from theory to practice is the hard part. In one way, that makes the statement that there's only one plot kind of meaningless. But, as Michelle says, it does help keep our mind on the simpler core of what we are working on.