Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seven Types of Plot - and Roger

There are, apparently, only seven types of plot in the world. I’m taking Answers.com’s word for it, because with a busy lifestyle like mine I just haven’t got time to read everything ever written in the history of the world. Anyway, here they are:

The Quest

We all know this one. The hero has a goal, and on his way to accomplish it he must overcome obstacles. And just because the Q-word has you thinking of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, don’t be fooled. The Quest may be as simple as Roger from Accounting going to order a sandwich on his lunchbreak, and having to use the stairs because the elevator is broken. It’s still a quest. Not an interesting one, but we don’t all have the intestinal fortitude to walk into Mordor.

Roger. An Accountant. 

Voyage and Return
This is sort of the same as the Quest, except the hero goes to another world, learns some important lessons, and comes to a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him. Again, don’t just think fantasy. Maybe Roger, on his way to find a sandwich, accidentally walks into a strip club and afterwards realises what a mistake it was. Accidentally, yeah, right.


Ah, now it gets interesting. In Rebirth, the protagonist is usually in a dark place, and is seeking, or is pushed into, redemption. Usually, the hero’s liberation can only be achieved through the redemptive power of love or faith, or through self-realisation, and involves the protagonist wrestling with his own psyche. You can think Scrooge from A Christmas Carol if you want. You can think Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. You can even think Roger, if you like, who has maxed out his credit cards at the strip club, lost his family and home in the divorce, and then books into a dive of a motel with the intention of killing himself but reads a passage in a Gideon’s Bible and decides to become a Benedictine monk instead.

Comedy doesn’t always mean funny. Anyone who has the Comedy Channel knows this. Comedy, Aristotle said, was showing people to be worse than they are. So, Reality TV maybe. The characters are thrown into a state of confusion and bewilderment, and the resolution only comes when these constricting factors have been played out to their extremes. The best definition of comedy in this sense would probably be “farce”.
Brother Roger, living in a hermitage in the wooded estates of the evil Archbishop-Elect of Salzburg, one night rescues a young man from the clutches of a Sound of Music tour group. The young man, Casmir, is the illegitimate son of the Archbishop-Elect and a six-fingered cheese merchant from Český Krumlov. Casmir is in love with Mathilde, the daughter of the Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Brussels but has been separated from her due to her father’s machinations. Roger, anxious to help the lovers reunite, sets out with Casmir armed with only his faith and a Eurorail pass, and disguised as a nomadic IT worker.

It is at this point that Roger loses his right ear, his left leg, and an indeterminate testicle due to the ravages of cholera. He also loses Casmir.

Meanwhile, the evil Archbishop-Elect imprisons Casmir in the Festung Hohensalzburger. At the same time Maximillian Crowe, hero of the siege of Moldavia, and indebted to the crippled stranger who saved his life one night on the Paris-Brussels express, goes in search of his half-sister Mathilde, who has fallen on hard times in a Istanbul kebab shop.

Our story begins in a lonely roadside inn, where Maximillian finally catches up with Roger and orders cabbage stew from one of the Illuminati disguised as a waiter with a patch over his eye.


A person of great status brings on their own downfall. Think Oedipus or Macbeth. Don’t think Roger here. Roger isn’t important enough to bring on his own downfall. Really, there are invertebrate species with more scope for Tragedy with a big T than Roger. Roger doesn’t challenge the gods with his hubris. Ever since he began a monk, he’s become very humble. Ironically, he’s quite proud of how humble he’s become.

Overcoming the Monster

This doesn’t need much explanation. Dracula, anyone? The Silence of the Lambs? Or Roger, thrown out of the Benedictine monastery after his inappropriate adventures and increasingly proud manner, who has taken up with the Jesuits where he is training to be an exorcist. Much hilarity ensues. And then much bloodshed.
Roger. Saving the world when nobody expects it.  

Rags to Riches

Little Orphan Annie, Dick Whittington, and dare I say it, Mariah Carey’s Glitter? And possibly Roger as well, who after defeating the Beast and averting the Apocalypse, wins American Idol with his pop-synth version of the Gregorian Chant, moves to Hollywood, and becomes a star. 

So while there might be only seven plots in the world, those seven plots have infinite varieties…Which have you chosen? 


  1. Poor Roger, he doesn't know what those Jesuits will get him into. They're less expected than the Inquisition!

    I really like how you wove Roger into every example of the seven types. Personally I went with Voyage and Return for my first wip but the second one could be seen as a quest (for the solution to a mystery & a giant drive for revenge).

  2. Bwa-ha-ha-haaaaa!

    I went to a workshop once where the professor said there were only two basic plots: Local Kid Makes Good and A Stranger Comes To Town. I was like, "So Oedipus is both...."

    My current WIP is a short story. It's a buddy quest. The book I'm writing the short story to promote is a farce. With Jesuits. In space. Really.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  3. Thanks SM!

    I know they say there are seven types, but I think everything I've written can pretty much be called Rebirth. Because, if you aren't torturing your characters to see what they're made of, what's the point? Or maybe I'm just a sadist.

  4. Marian,

    Jesuits in space? Love it!

  5. Haha! I've heard this in an English class before, but forgot it till now. It's so true!

    Looking back on all my work I've realized that all my stories seem to be quests, but maybe now I'll branch out and try something else. It's so interesting how we can create a million different stories from all the same archetypes. Your rebirth stories sound interesting, so maybe that'll be next!

  6. I think that there are more than seven kinds of plot. I just can't think of any. It doesn't make sense that only seven work.

  7. I felt the same, Michael, but check out Marian's comment. There might only be two!



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