Story Plots

All writers are told, at some point, that every story has been written. Whether it’s from a well meaning colleague or a trusted friend, it can leave you unmotivated and questioning why you’re writing in the first place.

George Booker filtered down the various stories into 7 plots, Blake Snyder filtered down to 10 plots, Ronald Tobias filtered down 20 plots and Georges Polti filtered down to 36 plots. If you’re a new writer searching for a plot, or you’re just searching for a new plot, these basic plots should help.

While I can’t give as good an explanation as the writers themselves, I can offer a brief description and you can find out more information online. I’ll also provide examples, so you can look at that example and see how they use that particular plot.

George Booker’s 7 Plots

  1. Overcoming the Monster – can be a literal monster or a metaphorical monster; a literal monster is usually a made up creature, such as a Yeti or Frankenstein; a metaphorical monster is usually mental health based, such as the protagonist in Fight Club.
  2. Rags to Riches – the most obvious example I can give is Cinderella, where a female was born into poverty and forced to work for her stepmother but marries a handsome prince and becomes rich.
  3. The Quest – typically going on a long, strenuous journey to accomplish an important goal, such as Frodo in Lord of the Rings in which he has to destroy a ring to rid the world of evil.
  4. Voyage and Return – the protagonist travels somewhere to gain something, like gold, and returns richer, such as Pocahontas, where the travellers discover gold and return rich from their findings.
  5. Comedy – consistently funny throughout and aimed to be light hearted and fun, but dependent on what type of humour; The Mask is good for over the top, slapstick comedy, whereas The Office (UK) aims to be more amusing than laugh out loud funny.
  6. Tragedy – the story revolves around a protagonist’s life going terribly and usually ends with a death, if not several; Shakespeare has several tragedies, such as MacBeth, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.
  7. Rebirth – a protagonist usually undergoes a life-altering experience and is reborn as a better person, such as Bucky from the MCU, or the protagonist literally dies but comes back to life, such as Supernatural where the two main protagonists are constantly dying and coming back to life again.

Blake Snyder’s 10 Plots

  1. Monster in the House – depending on the definition of monster, it could either be a literal monster that kills people in a house, such as Supernatural, or it could be creepy dolls or ghosts or distorted human beings, such as Krampus.
  2. Out of the Bottle (wishes and curses) – either a protagonist seeks out someone to grant them a wish and it’s a curse instead, such as Supernatural, a protagonist acts selfishly and is therefore cursed, such as Beauty and the Beast, or the protagonist accidentally stumbles upon someone who’ll grant them wishes, such as Aladdin.
  3. Whodunit – the classic murder mystery stories where a detective, such as Hercule Poirot, or else a stranger who has no connection with the law, such as Sherlock Holmes, must find out who killed the dead character through a series of clues.
  4. Golden Fleece (journey; quest) – like the name suggests, a character must undergo a journey/quest to accomplish a goal, such as finding the Golden Fleece.
  5. Rites of Passage – as the title sounds, it’s a story where the protagonist goes through a rite of passage, such as puberty or marriage; an example would be Harry Potter who goes through puberty while trying to stop evil.
  6. Institutionalised – this one is a guess; there’s a regime/society in place but the people revolt against it and win, such as The Hunger Games where Katniss rebels and there are two winners instead of one.
  7. Buddy Love – a story revolved around friendship; it could mean going on an adventure together, such as Paper Towns, or learning the importance of friendship, such as Mean Girls.
  8. Superhero – a human that has superhuman abilities, which doesn’t mean it has to be the typical comic book superhero, such as All My Friends Are Superheroes; however, the examples that come to mind are definitely the comic book heroes I know and love, such as the MCU or the DCTV-verse.
  9. Dude with a Problem – the protagonist has a problem and spends the whole story trying to solve the problem, such as The Good Place, where they seem to have constant problems they must overcome.
  10. The Fool Triumphant (underdog) – the superhero genre has been very good at showing a character who has all the odds stacked against them only for them to come out on top, such as Spiderman: Homecoming.

Ronald Tobias’ 20 Plots

  1. Quest – typically going on a long, strenuous journey to accomplish an important goal, such as Frodo in Lord of the Rings in which he has to destroy a ring to rid the world of evil.
  2. Adventure – an adventure is different from a quest in that an adventure doesn’t necessarily have a goal they must accomplish and can instead just be friends partaking in an event, such as Pitch Perfect.
  3. Pursuit – usually associated with crime stories where the police pursue a criminal, such as The Bill, or the protagonist is pursuing the antagonist for a specific reason (or reasons), such as A Ticket To The Boneyard.
  4. Rescue – usually involving someone being kidnapped, such as Taken where one of the protagonists’ family members is kidnapped and the protagonist must rescue them.
  5. Escape – usually involving someone being kidnapped or trapped and they need to escape, such as The Maze Runner in which a group of teens must escape the maze.
  6. Revenge – usually when someone close to the protagonist has died and they want revenge on the antagonist, such as The Punisher.
  7. The Riddle – a character is given a riddle to solve and potentially must do so within a set amount of time; it could also have to do with prophecies, such as Kung Fu Panda 2, since they often need to be deciphered to make sense of them.
  8. Rivalry – the protagonist either has a rival they have always competed against or they get a rival they will compete against for the whole story, such as Bride Wars.
  9. Underdog – the superhero genre has been very good at showing a character who has all the odds stacked against them only for them to come out on top, such as Spiderman: Homecoming.
  10. Temptation – the protagonist is tempted by something that will change their lives, which sometimes involves sex, other times involves giving the protagonist what they want, such as in Star Wars when Anakin is tempted and swayed by the dark side.
  11. Metamorphosis – see transformation below
  12. Transformation – the protagonist undergoes a change that transforms them as a person, such as Bucky or Loki from the MCU.
  13. Maturation – the protagonist matures as the story progresses, such as Harry Potter who matures throughout the series as he goes through puberty.
  14. Love – two characters fall in love gradually over the course of the story, such as To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, or it could show different types of love like platonic love between friends and/or family.
  15. Forbidden Love – the most obvious example is always Romeo and Juliet, since their families are at war and hate one another, but they both met and fell in love.
  16. Sacrifice – the protagonist has to sacrifice something that leads to a certain result, such as in Supernatural with the Winchesters sacrificing themselves all the time to prevent an apocalypse from happening.
  17. Discovery – a protagonist discovers a life-altering secret or truth that changes their life, such as Mamma Mia where Mia finds out who her potential dad could be.
  18. Wretched Excess – I’ll be honest, I have no idea what this one is, so read Tobias’ book for further information.
  19. Ascension – the protagonist changes position in their life from ordinary person to extraordinary, such as in Mean Girls where Cady Heron goes from new girl to popular girl.
  20. Descension – the protagonist loses their high position in life and goes from extraordinary person to ordinary person, such as Thor where he goes from next in line to the throne to being exiled to Earth until he learns to be humble.

Georges Polti’s 36 Plots

I’ll be honest, most of Georges Polti’s plots are very specific since he analysed classic Greek texts and French texts. I’d highly recommend reading his book as he’ll probably give detailed explanations behind each of the 36 plots he mentions. Or you could check out the brief description given on Wikipedia.

Use these plots as you see fit and follow the basic premise to lay the foundations for your story. Then comes the rest of the story, which will take a while but it’ll be worth it in the end… hopefully.

Let me know if any of these descriptions are wrong and I’ll edit them as necessary.

Which plots do you like best? Which plots do you use most?

Advertisements

Writing Tips

As with any beginner at anything, you want as much help as you can get before you begin the task at hand. Naturally, one of the first questions that always gets asked to any published writer/author is, ‘do you have any writing tips?’ After all, if they were published, they must know what they did to get there, right? And if I mimic them, I’ll get there too, right?

Not necessarily.

A lot of published writers/authors figure out what works for them and sticks to it, sometimes obsessively. They treat it like a job instead of a hobby and tell you so, then they might proceed to give you writing tips.

However, the usual writing tips you hear aren’t necessarily right and here’s why:

1. Follow the writing rules.

For new writers, the writing rules are pivotal, just like learning how to bake a cake for the first time.

At first, you need to know the recipe to make the cake, then you learn to experiment a bit here and there while following the recipe, and you finally learn to read the recipe for basic guidelines but you create your own recipe with your own spin on the recipe.

Writing is the same. You follow the writing rules to begin with, then you learn where you can experiment with the writing rules, and you finally learn to write using and breaking the rules as and when necessary and put your own spin on your writing.

Yes, follow the writing rules while you’re still learning and experimenting, but these writing rules are mostly guidelines to help new writers.

2. Write ‘x’ amount of words for ‘x’ amount of time.

This is very much down to personal preference, the lifestyle you live and the type of person you are.

Some writers might tell you to aim for 1,000 words per day. Other writers might tell you to aim for an hour of non-stop writing per day. But again, like I mentioned, this depends entirely on you. If you struggle to find an hour to do non-stop writing, or you can only just write 100 words per day, don’t beat yourself up. Writers often say these numbers because that’s what they aim to do, but in no way should you feel obligated to copy them.

If you can write 10 words per day during that 10 minute time slot you have, use it. Because as most writers say, ‘some words are better than no words’. You can edit whatever words you write down, but you cannot edit if you have the words written down.

3. Write in the morning.

Most successful writers throughout history tend to write in the morning, so the general advice goes round that you too should write in the morning. But once again, this depends entirely on your lifestyle and the type of person you are.

A few examples would include:

  • Waking up at 6am to go to work and not returning back until 7pm, at which point you want to unwind for the night and not fret about writing, so you leave it for the weekend
  • Being a night owl who gets their inspiration during the night when everyone’s asleep and the ideas/words just flow out, and then it helps you sleep cos you’ve gotten some words out
  • Trying to balance work with adult responsibilities with a social life, which usually results in your writing having to constantly be pushed aside for whatever life throws at you, meaning you could go weeks without writing

4. Always carry a notebook around with you.

I agree with this writing tip for the sentiment, but carrying around a notebook means constantly carrying around a handbag that fits in a notebook, or remembering to put the notebook in the right bag.

Society has changed in recent years with technology advancing far beyond what anyone expected. Sure, the novelty of carrying around a notebook and pen is great, especially for us stationery addicts, but practicality wise, it doesn’t work.

Every smartphone nowadays has a notes app. Taking out your phone and typing down some ideas is far easier than trying to jot down ideas, especially if you’re in an environment where the handwriting is likely to be shaky at best. Plus, you’re more likely to be on your phone while waiting for appointments or travelling, and instead of strolling idly through social media (dw, I’m guilty of this too), you could open up the notes app and write some words. That way, you can feel a little better knowing you actually wrote something.

Important tip: BACKUP YOUR WORK! (Too many people have lost work due to unexpected computer malfunctions, so back it up!)

There are plenty more writing tips out there, but these are the most common I’ve seen and heard, and you should take them with a pinch of salt. They’ll probably be personal preference if they do share any writing tips outside of ‘follow the writing rules’. Write in the way that works best for you and keep writing.

What are some writing tips you’ve heard you disagreed with?

My Notebooks

Are you even a writer if you don’t have a large collection of notebooks?

My collection of notebooks from over the years

As any stationery addict will tell you, hoarding notebooks is a big problem. Then you tell everyone, including yourself, they serve a purpose to justify buying yet another notebook. In my case, this problem is only amplified when the only thing I want for my birthday/Christmas is stationery, so really, my loved ones are the problem. Or a small part anyway.

I separated my notebooks into four piles for the purpose of this blog post, but usually they’re one giant stack underneath my desk. I have no other place for them… for now.

Feelings notebook

This notebook isn’t a favourite by any means, but it is a super important to me personally. When I was going through a very bad time in my life, I wrote down my thoughts and feelings in the hopes it’d go away or become easier to manage. It didn’t really work, but the sensation of writing did take my mind off panicking. Plus, it’s good to go back and read through what I experienced and see how I’ve grown since then.

Celtic design notebooks

The larger notebook is my absolute favourite notebook I’ve ever bought, but I face the issue most notebook hoarders have: not wanting to ruin the notebook. The cover has this gorgeous Celtic design with gold sections and the pages look like ancient parchment paper, making it near impossible to start using this notebook. I’m trying to find something magical to go inside, but nothing feels worthy enough.

The smaller Celtic notebook I own I was convinced to buy by my aunt… I think. It’s a complicated cousin situation (something removed?) and I’m not trying to understand it. I was torn between buying so many notebooks that day but the Celtic one stuck out to me, and even my mum conceded it looked pretty. Whilst this cover isn’t as gorgeous as the other one, I still adore the design, and just like the other one, I haven’t found a purpose for it. Yet.

Harry Potter notebooks

Just like most people my age, I have an eternal love for Harry Potter, so why not buy several notebooks to continue that love? Although, funnily enough, out of the four Harry Potter notebooks I own, I only bought one. The rest were bought by my mum.

I’m 99% certain I can find a use for the three notebooks my mum bought me.

Hufflepuff is my Hogwarts house, so naturally, I bought the notebook. But since this is a Hufflepuff notebook, I don’t want to ruin it. I’d rather preserve it as a Hufflepuff notebook than write in it. If I do find a purpose for it, I will definitely use it. However, I’m finding that very unlikely.

Draft notebooks

I struggled to write a draft of my story, so I figured I’d give handwriting it a go. I’ll be honest, while it got the story down easier, I did change details as I went along and it lacked any kind of detail. Also, hand cramps were an issue. Still, it was fun to handwrite down my story whilst watching something in the background on Netflix. I managed to fill a large portion of the notebook too, which I’m proud of.

I’d actually handwritten a draft before in the Winnie the Pooh notebook. One of my best friends used a bigger version of this notebook and I adored it. However, the pages are quite flimsy and one or two fell out, which isn’t ideal. This was a very early draft of a story I did, if not the very first draft. I had fun writing it down and getting the basic story down, whilst also writing around the little doodles. It was refreshing and easy to bring around with you and write. This was back before I had smart phone, so writing on a phone just didn’t work.

For now, I’ll stick to those notebooks. If you’d like to see more of my notebooks, comment below.

Are you a fellow stationery hoarder? Do you have several notebooks that you collect and never use? Or do you use all the notebooks you buy?

Writing Throwback

Since we’re in the first few days of January, I’m still in a reflective mood. I realised last year that I have been writing for about 10 years now, so it makes sense for me to look over my previous stories I’ve written. I’ve decided to share these stories with you to show you how much you can improve in 10 years and to prove to myself I have gotten better.

Spy Story

My first official story, which I began back when I was 13 years old.

Granted, I never got beyond three pages before giving up since I realised I had no idea what teenage spies would learn at a spy school. Additionally, I am rubbish at coming up with story titles, so since this never went beyond even a rough draft, there was never a proper title.

The story that I had planned was for Maria and Jason to become teenage spies. However, the plot didn’t really form (except the ending) and I struggled to write it.

story snippet

This extract proves why the writing rules can be important, especially for beginning writers.

Describing my characters in that much detail is time consuming and boring, and while it tells us something about the friendship between Maria and Jason, this could all be condensed down into a single paragraph. In fact, this entire first page is unnecessary.

Back then, I thought a chapter was 2-3 pages long and it was an accomplishment if I made it to a third page for a chapter. I also didn’t realise most people used the tab button to make their paragraphs and I used to just press the spacebar three times. I’ve come a long way since then! But these are the little things you learn as you continue to write.

My Happy Ending

This story was the first story I actually managed to nearly finish. I think I had one more chapter to go before I stopped. I even went as far as to ask some friends for some critique, although it was this critique that made me realise my story wouldn’t work.

The story centres around Star, a member of the royal family, who gets left at home while her parents and sister visit some family friends abroad. However, things don’t go to plan as her evil uncle takes over and she’s forced to run away with Jack, her frenemy.

Version One

story snippet (2)

As you can see, it’s very… bland. First drafts usually are. The sentences are very ‘I did this. I did that. It hurt.’ It doesn’t vary in length much and doesn’t really offer much. However, I’ll give myself credit for the dialogue. It doesn’t sound fully natural, but it does a good job at showing the relationship between the characters. Dialogue has always been my strongest aspect.

A little insight: this is actually the scene I envisioned when I first came up with this story after visiting a palace in Venice. However, when I did another draft, I decided to drop this scene altogether. But it’s interesting to see my initial idea flesh out into a full story.

Version Two

story snippet (3)

With this version, I wanted to describe my characters but since I wasn’t very good at incorporating it in, I had a character description before chapter one.

My descriptions did improve, but again, I was still like ‘I did this. I did that.’ I could’ve varied the sentence lengths a bit more. The dialogue improved to sound like a conversation between two humans instead of ‘let’s tell the reader pivotal information in the dialogue’.

I could honestly sit here and tell you all the plot points I’m already cringing over, but I’ll refrain. But that’s another important skill to have. If you can look at your work objectively, it’ll definitely help when it comes to editing.

The Day My Life Changed

This story is the classic ‘celebrity falls in love with a fan’ story, which is thanks to me finding out Kevin Jonas was (at the time) dating a fan. Although, I later found out Danielle Jonas wasn’t a fan, but back then, that was big. I’d never heard of a celebrity dating a fan until then, so naturally, I came up with this story. Unfortunately, as I was writing this story, ‘Starstruck’ came out and it was almost exactly the plot I was writing.

Screenshot 2019-01-05 at 14.56.05.png

By this stage, I finally learnt how to use the tab button. I also figured out how to use sentence length properly. I wanted to try first person and it honestly helped so much with description, sentence length and character voice. Even the dialogue isn’t bad. Although, I used a tad too many exclamation marks and probably a few cliches.

When Two Worlds Collide

This story was supposed to be about a fairy who goes to a human’s bedroom and makes friends with them. However, I never finished it because I didn’t really have a good plot. Most the time, I used to just write stories and hoped for the best, but I now realise that just doesn’t work with me. I need a vague outline to keep me going.

screenshot 2019-01-05 at 15.03.16

I immediately start with a cliche: waking up. Most editors don’t like it when a story opens on someone waking up, so just in case you were considering doing so, don’t. Not unless they wake up to something unusual. Although, in my case, I could do so since it isn’t a human waking up but a fairy. In fact, in a redraft, I did describe her bedroom in more detail.

Where Fate Takes Us

I’m still working on this story, but I’ve put it to the side for now while I work on my fantasy story. Although, these characters are now involved in that story.

The story centres around four* strangers who audition for a band and become famous musicians.

*It was five but I got rid of one

Version One

It’s all good and well for me to continue showing the first paragraph, but sometimes, the first few paragraphs aren’t great. This is three chapters in.

I’m noticing in my first drafts, I use ‘I’ a lot if it’s first person. But I do have a good character voice. In this particular story, my dialogue is the strongest its ever been.

Secrets & Lies

This story has changed so much since I started it. In fact, I’m still working on it, except I’ve changed the title to ‘Untitled’ since this title doesn’t fit anymore.

In the first version, Lily is an ordinary girl who finds out about magic through Felix and the mysterious house that leads to a magical world.

In the second version, I changed Lily to Zoe, and Zoe is a witch who lives in a magical world. But she ends up on Earth and struggles to get home again.

The latest version is actually told from the antagonist’s perspective, but I’m still working on the plot.

Version One

I noticed the typo with ‘my Rose’, which is supposed to be ‘my sister Rose’.

The description needs work, but it’s only a bit of tweaking. It sets the scene and tells us about Lily’s relationship with her family, which is good to include.

Version Two

This is perhaps one of the best scenes I’ve written. It has minimal description and shows the relationship between the characters, as well as what the characters are like. It also doesn’t have the usual problem I face of ‘I did this. I did that.’

Version Three

It now looks like I’m guilty of making my sentences too long, if anything. I haven’t improved much since on describing a character having a crush. At least this particular section doesn’t have tons of cliches. Also, writing in third person helped me get rid of the ‘I did this. I did that.’ problem and helped me use more description. It doesn’t compromise the character voice too much either.


As you can see, 10 years can do a lot in terms of improvement. I’ve learnt where my writing was weak and improved it. Even now, I’m still constantly learning and improving so I can be as good as I can be.

How long have you been writing for? Have you seen much improvement in your writing?

Happy New Year!

A photo of me
Bringing in the New Year dressed up

Another year entering the New Year feeling lethargic.

One year, I will enter the New Year not feeling like shit.

2018 has been a great year, but since it’s a New Years post, the time for reflection has past. It’s time to face forward. Since I did a lot of healing mentally and emotionally, I am more prepared for what life throws at me. However, just because I healed myself doesn’t mean my mental health won’t flare up. That’s okay, so long as I can handle it when it does happen.

Every year, I make resolutions, as does everyone. Keeping them has been a success, but that’s only because I’ve kept them purposefully vague. Even then, I’ve failed in a few aspects. This year, I’m changing it somewhat. Instead of resolutions, I’ll do my goals for the year because goals are more achievable and can continue beyond a year.

Writing

I want to continue to write daily if I can. But should life get in the way, weekly is doable. I preferably wanna get several drafts done and hopefully a final draft of my WIP. We’ll see where we go from there.

I want to update this blog weekly again. I’m aiming to post on a Saturday evening again and focus on writing. If there’s any area of writing you’d like advice about, comment below. I might occasionally post personal things too.

I want to write writing prompts on my Tumblr blog and images of my writing bullet journal on my writing Instagram. Those are more side projects though and should life require me to give up any writing projects, they would be the first to go.

Personal

I need to keep looking after myself mentally and emotionally. Figure out how to handle stressful situations that don’t involve me crying or burning out. Also, figure out how to handle my anxiety in said stressful situations. I can handle my anxiety on a day to day basis, but I’m so shit at dealing with it in very stressful situations.

I need to figure out what I’m doing with my life, which any twenty-something will tell you is easier said than done. I’m hopefully changing careers, but that all depends what happens in the next month. If my plan doesn’t go to plan, I’ll need to get another digital marketing job or else try a different sector/industry for a while. Either way, that’s a main priority for this year.

Conversely, I need to move out again. But I can only do so if I have a permanent job and enough money to pay for rent and bills. As much as I’m reaping the benefits of living at home, I can’t stay here forever and I’m ready for the adventure that is moving out (again).

I want to learn how to drive this year. I’ve never felt the need to drive before this year, but moving away from home with lots of stuff is far easier to move in a car than on a train. Plus, it’s a useful skill to have.

I want to see more musicians live, depending who is performing live and how much money I have. I also want to see more musical theatre, including Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen (when it comes to the West End). I definitely want to go back to Edinburgh Fringe, but I’ll go for longer and see more.

I want to travel, which seems like it’ll happen. Every year, I go on holiday with mum to somewhere new, and this year looks like it’ll be Canada (yas!). I’d also like to go to Disneyland since I’ve never been. At 24 years old, that just won’t do. I’m definitely returning to Ireland to see family, but when is entirely up to me and my family.

I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store me and I hope 2019 is a good year for you.

2018

2018

2018 has mostly been a great year for me, but as with anything in life, there were definite downsides that nearly drove me to a bad headspace. I don’t want to ignore the negative parts because it makes the positive parts all the better, so I’ll start with the negative and end with the positive.

Since this got long, I’ve put it under a read more.

Continue reading “2018”

Where Have I Been?

A valid question.

I have been taking a well deserved writing break, which you’d think would mean I’d crack open a book or two, but no. The main reason being I was trying to balance completing my apprenticeship, trying to complete work tasks, buying Christmas presents and meeting loved ones whilst also falling very ill the week before Christmas and desperately trying to recover. Oh, and celebrating my birthday (and three other family members’ birthdays).

December is always hectic for me. Every year.

But I have a plan for next year and several goals to achieve. Hopefully, this should be the most productive year of my life, and perhaps even the year I finally learn life skills. I’ll be honest, even I’m worried about my lack of life skills at 24 years old.

From January, I will be making weekly blog posts again. I have a few ideas for what I want to write about, but if you have any writing posts you’d like to read from me, please let me know in the comments.