Friday, August 13, 2010
Stories have plots. For without plots, nothing would happen. In fact, another word for plot, is storyline. Does that clear a few things up? Awesome.
And if it does not, lets call plots series of events, focused around specific subjects. Like separate DNA strands, intertwining to create genetically modified beasts.
Sounds cool, doesn't it? Lets proceed.
Oh, and this post contains spoilers, on Star Wars 4, The Matrix, and The Dark Knight since they are used as examples. Continue at your own risk, the peril of spoiling great movies, awaits.
The first thing I'm gonna teach you guys, is that good stories have multiple plots, and that these plots are separate, even though they may deal with the same character.
For example, we have Luke Skywalker in Episode 4, who has two plots.
The first one is your typical hero's journey, or confront the enemy (Darth Vader), or action, plot. This starts with Luke being a farm boy whose guardians are killed. Then he goes to fight the evil empire. This plot ends when he blows up the Death Star.
The second plot is Luke's character plot, or a confronting a new idea plot, as opposed to a new enemy. The new idea is that Luke can use the force.
This plot starts when he doesn't believe in the force, then is told by Ben that it is real and he can use it. The plot ends when Luke decides to use the force instead of his targeting computer to try and blow up the death star.
It is better to organize these plots separately. So it is a good idea to give each plot its own,
Plot Point 1
Plot Point 2
So what do these mean?
Hook: The opposite of your resolution. For example, if you end with the Hero overcoming a fear of bees, the hook should start with him being scared to death of bees.
Plot Point 1: Your character confronts his main problem, but refuses to face it. So, he confronts a beehive, than runs away.
Pinch 1: Your character is forced to confront his problem. Then he faces it many times, failing many times, having small successes...from time to time. So, he must destroy the beehive, otherwise the bee queen will takeover the world. How? Who cares, you decide.
Midpoint: Your character finally decides that perhaps he should face his problem. So, he decides that maybe bees are not all that scary.
Pinch 2: Your character is about to completely, utterly, fail at his goal. So, the bee queen is about to take over the world.
Plot Point 2: Your character overcomes his problem, and then solves it. So, the Hero remembers that bees are not scary, and steps on the bee queen, killing her.
Resolution: Your character ends up in the opposite state of how he was in the beginning. So, he is no longer scared of bees.
An easy way, to create this sort of plot outline, is to come up with your resolution first, then fill in the rest.
I must give credit to Dan Wells, the creator of this outline style, called The Seven Point System. Notice how there are seven point in the outline? Makes sense doesn't it?
Also, be warned that I will often refer to Plot Point 2, as the climax of a plot, because really, that's what it is.
Now, back to the tips.
The reason why it is better to structure your plots separately is so that you can create awesome pacing.
When only one plot is being developed in a scene, the pacing is slow to moderate.
To make awesome scenes, with high tension and pace, you just bring in multiple plot lines at the same time.
That's why the ending to A New Hope is awesome. Both of the plot lines, (Use the Force, and blow up Death Star) Have their climax (or Plot Point 2) at the same time. Or almost the same time. Luke uses the Force first, then the Death Star blows up.
However most of the movie keeps the plots separate. Here's how.
Whenever Luke is learning about the Force he is never fighting the evil empire or running away from it.
Whenever he fights the empire, he never uses the force.
The one time he does...is in the end...which is why it is awesome.
So...organizing plots separately allows you to plan climactic scenes, and the scenes that build up to these, easily.
Another good example of a climax that ties in plots is the Matrix.
It ties in three plots in the end.
First: The bad guy plot, Neo fights Smith, and defeats him.
Second: The idea plot, Neo finally accepts that he is the one.
Third: The romance plot, Trinity reveals that she loves Neo.
These all happen like in the same minute, which makes this one minute awesome.
Another trick that comes from this is...lets say you fear that your book is becoming boring in the middle. You can tie in a few plots together for a while...this will increase the tension. Or since climaxes are exciting...you could simply have one of the plots climax in the middle, by itself.
This is done often. Matrix does this, with the betrayal plot. In around the middle, the betrayer is revealed, and then he screws over Morpheus, then he is killed. This is a really cool climax. However the story continues.
Another cool example is The Dark Knight:
Before the end we have two climax's happen at the same time. We have the action climax. Where Batman defeats the Joker. And we have the idea climax. Are people truly bad...this ends with the people on the boat not blowing each other up.
Then after...yes there is another climax...we have Batman's character (or another idea) climax. This is where he finally decides that Batman doesn't need a good image, and that he should be blamed for the murder.
All of these climax's are the ends of different plots. Which we have, as far as I'm concerned, four of in the Dark Knight.
1: The Joker antagonist
2: Are people really bad?
3: 2 Faces Tragedy.
4: Batman's Character Development.
5: Batman's Romance.
Oops..did I say four, no there are five.
Batman also has his Romance, which is also a bit of a tragedy, since in the end it doesn't work out for him. This climaxes early in the movie when his girl is blown up. This also intertwines with the Joker plot...because he kills her. Since these two plots meet, the scene is awesome.
However, how can we be sure that there really is a romance plot and its not just the Joker plot, with him killing the girl? Simple. There are scenes in the movie that have to do only with the romance, and have nothing to do with Joker. Like, when Bruce doesn't get her letter. And when he is trying to win her back early on from Two Face.
So, this is the reason Dark Knight is so awesome. It has five plots, with five climax's.
Honestly, it might even have six, with the detective guy...and how he is betrayed by his own men...okay The Dark Knight has six plots. SIX!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That is why it such an awesome movie.
So, now we know that if we want an awesome book we need multiple plots, multiple plots that could center, and probably at least two should, around one character.
Now we know that when plots overlap, you end up with awesome scenes.
We also know that ending plots early, allows you to have awesome early climaxes.
We also know that the final ending, should be at least two plot climaxes in quick succession.
We also know that doing all of this, practically guarantees success.
The hardest part about doing all of this, is identifying the different plots. Because once you do that, you're set.
Personally, here are the different types of plots I have identified so far.
1: The Villain plot: Antagonist is doing bad things. The Hero must stop him.
2: The Idea plot: The protagonist confronts a new idea. Accepts it in the end.
3. The Tragedy plot: Hero starts of happy. Then in the end is dead or in misery, due to outside forces, but also a character flaw.
4. The Romance plot: The protagonist starts of single. In the end gets the girl or guy.
5. The Betrayal plot. The protagonist starts of with a friendship. Ends with the betrayal, and then either defeating the betrayer or becoming friends again.
6. The Horror plot. The protagonist encounters an unseen danger. Ends with either the understanding and destruction of this danger...but much more often the danger ends up killing everyone. Mostly a reactive plot.
7. The Mystery plot. There is a mystery. Clues are found. Then the mystery is solved. A mix of reaction to bad things happening and proaction to figure out the mystery.
8. The Thriller plot. The protagonist has something to do, like a job, and the stakes are high. Starts with getting the job. Goes through many try fail cycles. Then succeeds in the end. Is very proactive. The Thriller is similar to a villain plot, except the protagonist does not react to the villain since there is no villain. Instead he or she just has many laid out problems, that they try to solve. There is also no mystery.
That's all I have so far. In my mind all of these are clearly different plots. Yet many of them can overlap easily, which means that they can easily be used in one novel. Also remember...you can have more than one of each of the plots in your book...you can have two ideas...or two betrayals...
Hopefully this helps you guys in outlining and pacing your novels, as well as creating awesome climaxes.
For now...just try to understand everything I have said, and comment, telling me your own thoughts on this technique.
Have fun writing.