What is the plot of a novel? According to the Macquarie Concise Dictionary the word Plot means:
- A secret plan or scheme to accomplish some purpose, esp. a hostile unlawful, or evil purpose. (oooh)
- The plan, scheme, or main story of a play, novel, poem, or the like. (I like no.1 better)
The plot is the synopsis you send to the publisher, it’s the blurb on the back of the book that makes you spend your hard earned cash. So, how do you create an award winning, unique plot? If you research the subject you will find countless theories and analogies on the number of possible plot themes from “The seven basic plots”, “Twenty Master plots” and of course the famous “The Thirty-six Dramatic Situations”.
Are these lists any use to the writer? or do they interfere with the creative process and develop fiction devoid of imagination. I believe they have a place in the writing process. For example, my writing starts with an inspiration, an idea, I then develop the characters that can move this idea along and get the story to its conclusion. I’ll start with the beginning and/or end and then flesh out the ups and down of the middle. If inspiration isn’t coming easily there are many exercises writers use to get a basic plot going, but if the task ahead is Herculean and you are a prolific Trollopian writer a list of themes can be a godsend. I have a series, which centres on the same characters, and at times I look to this list for the spark to get a new theme started.
In the interest in serving my fellow writer I have included the 36 plot themes here. These themes were included in the above mentioned book in the 19th century, by French writer Georges Polti, then translated to English in 1916, but the list is credited to Goethe, who credits them to Gozzi from the mid 1700’s.
- Vengeance of a crime
- Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
- Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune
- Daring enterprise
- Enmity of kinsmen
- Rivalry of kinsmen
- Murderous adultery
- Fatal imprudence
- Involuntary crimes of love
- Slaying of a kinsmen unrecognized
- Self-sacrificing for an ideal
- Self-sacrifice for kindred
- All sacrificed for a passion
- Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
- Rivalry of superior and inferior
- Crimes of love
- Discovery of the dishonor of a loved one
- Obstacles to love
- An enemy loved
- Conflict with a god
- Mistaken jealousy
- Erroneous judgment
- Recovery of a lost one
- Loss of loved ones
If the dreaded writers block is firmly wedged, I hope this list will be the jackhammer of inspiration –Happy writing.