Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Master Plots

 Ronald Tobias came up with 20 Master plots that you can build your ideas on. The 20 Master plots are;

Search for something, someone or somewhere and the hero’s motivation for the search. The first scene includes a motivating scene not the actual start of the quest so the reader can understand why the person has to go on a quest. The journey includes moving around a lot and visiting many people. The hero will have a travelling companion(s).The object of the search is everything and once found the story is often just about to end. Other than the quest object at the end of the story the hero changes e.g. finds wisdom. The hero may find himself geographically at the place they started

Action for action sakes ex. Gulliver's Travels. The fortune is never at home and so the hero sets out to find out. The focus is on the journey itself and thus setting becomes a very critical component. It will include a foray into new and strange places, strange events. The hero doesn’t necessarily have to change at the beginning of the story. A common subplot in adventure is romance.

One (or two) person(s) chases another. The chase is more important than the people who take part in it. The pursuer must have reasonable chance of catching the pursued. It is essential that during some point the pursued becomes trapped. The characters ought to be stimulating, engaging and physically able to deal with the challenges of the chase as it will involve a lot of physical action. The setting should be as confined as possible to increase the tension and the chances of being caught.

Hero must rescue a captured victim. Like pursuit and adventure it relies a lot on characterization. The plot will have a character triangle i.e. hero, villain and victim. The villain is really bad and the hero is really good. The hero must have some kind of relationship to the villain to increase the stakes. The villain will constantly interfere with the hero and the final scene will involve a fierce confrontation between the two. The phases of the story are separation – pursuit – confrontation – reunion.

A person must escape somewhere which may lead to a pursuit. It is literal.
The hero is confined against his will and wand wants to escape. Unlike the rescue plot, here the hero is the victim. In the initial phases the villain has control, in the last the hero. The phases of the story are imprisonment – initial escape thwarted – escape – pursuit – confrontation – hero prevails. 

Wronged person seeks retribution against betrayer for real or imagined injury. The focus is on the means of revenge rather than the motivation. The form of revenge will often go outside the limits of the law because the law is often inadequate. The hero’s vengeance must fit the crime i.e. not exceed it. The phases are normal life – crime committed against hero – no satisfaction through official channels – hero pursues own course – first attempt vengeance fails – hero has to improvise – confrontation with villain – hero prevails.

The Riddle
Hero uncovers clues and finds a solution to a mystery. The core is that the answer is hidden in plain sight if only you can solve the clues. The phases riddle is introduced – relationships between people, places and events involved is revealed - riddle solved and real sequence of plot is revealed.

Two parties are set up as competitors who have equal power. The plot is about their struggle for supremacy. The sides are clarified by the moral issue involved in their struggle. The phases are status quo where both show dislike but grudging respect for each other’s strength – initial conflict – complications cause changes in the power curve with each getting equal lose and win time – antagonist prevails and protagonist loses – protagonist starts to rise through change in fortune and reaches antagonists level – final confrontation – order restored.

Has aspects of rivalry but the hero has less advantage and has high probability of losing because he/she is not equally matched to the antagonist. It follows the same curve as rivalry except for admiration of each others strength. In this case the hero fears the antagonist while the antagonist lords his/her power.

The hero is tempted with something that is bad for him or that is morally reprehensible. The battle is thus internal. Establishment of nature of the protagonist – temptation introduced – protagonist gives in but rationalizes decision – short term gratification – negative side surfaces – protagonist tries to escape responsibility or punishment – negative effects escalate – protagonist atones – reconciliation and forgiveness.

The protagonist is physically transformed into another form through a curse. The hero then struggles to come back to their original form or to use the form for some greater purpose. The cure to the curse may often be related to some form of love. There are usually terms to release. The phases of the plot are hero has curse but can’t explain it – antagonist explains curse and offers release – terms of release fulfilled – protagonist released or embraces curse.

Change of some form in the hero driven by an unexpected circumstance. Usually it will explore the changes as one moves from one stage of life to another. The phases of the plot are transforming incident causes crisis – change starts – effects of transformation – clarifying incident where protagonist understands change and its effect – wisdom and a little sadness.

Form of transformation where a person grows up, finds meaning or their purpose in life. The protagonist’s naïve ‘childhood’ is contrasted to the realities of life or ‘adulthood’. The phases of plot are naïve state – inciting incident that challenges their beliefs on how the world works – rejection/acceptance of change – change happens anyway from minor upheavals to one major upheaval – protagonist ‘grows up’.

Lovers find one another through a background of a major obstacle like danger, sadness, separation and reunion. Character development is very important and the partners need to be unique, dynamic and well rounded out. Develop the full range of feelings i.e. fear, loathing, attraction, disappointment, relief etc. The lovers are usually ill suited at least on the surface by reasons of class, physical attributes, temperament etc. One lover is more aggressive in seeking love than the other. It doesn’t have to have a happy ending. The phases of the plot are Lovers meet - Obstacle presented – solution thwarted – attempt to get over barrier – unsuccessful or successful but another barriers appear – solved – lovers unite.

Forbidden Love
Lovers are breaking some kind of social rule the risk of being found out is ever present. The phases of the plot are definition of initial relationship between partners that makes the love forbidden – start forbidden relationship – attempt to conceal – discovery – dissolving of relationship – attempt to reinstate relationship – fails/succeeds – endpoint where moral scores are settled may end on separation, ostracization, or death.

Hero gives much more than most people would give intentionally or unintentionally at great personal cost. The hero will eventually transform from a low moral state to high moral state. The character must be well developed, have a clear sense of morality and his thoughts and emotions well explored.

Hero discovers something great or terrible and hence must make a difficult choice. Actions and emotions are well balanced. The phases of the plot are introduction to character before discovery – inciting incident that begins to change protagonist’s character – crisis between the past and the present – resolution.

Wretched Excess
Hero overdoes it because of a character flaw or an incident and the world looks on in horror. The deterioration evokes sympathy and horror in equal measure. The phases of the decline are status quo – inciting incident – beginning of deterioration – crisis point – give up to decline or recover from it.

Hero starts as a sinner and the plot shows their journey to become a better person. He/she is strong willed charismatic and dynamic. The journey involves a moral dilemma that changes his/her character.

The reverse of ascension. Hero starts out high standing and descends to moral degradation

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