Saturday, September 27, 2008

Four Plot Types (from Orson Scott Card)

There four types of stories or plots.

The Travel/Quest Story: This story is most concerned with places visited. The story begins when the trip begins and end when the traveler returns home. Think of The Odyssey. The story is about the Sirens and the Cyclops - strange inhabitants of strange places.

The Mystery/Puzzle Story: This story is most concerned with answering a question. The story begins when the question is asked and ends when the question is answered. Think of murder mysteries. The story is about answering the question: Who is the murdered and why?

The Character Story: This story is most concerned with the characters. The story begins when the character feel compelled to changed and ends when the character either settles into a new role or accepts their former role. Frank Capra's It's a Wonder Life is a perfect example, starting with George Bailey considering suicide and ending when he accepts the movie's title.

The Crisis/Disaster Story: This story is most concerned with some crisis or disaster. The story begins with the crisis and ends when the crisis has been resolved. Much of history is presented with this plot, especially wars. Wars start with an invasion and end with a treaty.

A fifth plot structure used by beginning writers is the Meta Mystery/Puzzle Story. This story is most concerned with reader guessing what the writer is writing about. The writer intends to increase the suspense and interest by keeping the reader guessing.
But that is not so. Suspense comes from having almost all the information - enough information that the audience is emotionally involved and cares very much about that tiny bit of information left unrevealed.
CREDIT: These ideas are abstracted from How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. In spite of the book's title, it contains excellent advice for all writers - one of the best How to Write ... books ever.

No comments: