In Groups: 5 minutes
• Review the four ways to eliminate “to be” verbs.
• Discuss the 7 genres
The Review: Strategies to
Eliminate the “to be” verb
1. Substitute a new word.
2. Rearrange the sentence.
3. Change another word in the
sentence into a verb.
4. Combine sentences.
• Science Fiction/Fantasy
• Young Adult
Lecture: Basic Plots
According to the British journalist and
author Christopher Booker, there are only
seven „storylines‟ in the world.
Seven Basic Plots: The premise:
Christopher Booker argues that all
storytelling is woven around basic plots and
archetypes that are inescapable and help to
define the human condition. We are
psychologically programmed to tell stories
in a way that reflects our most basic
Booker’s Seven Basic Plots
1.Overcoming the Monster
2.Rags to Riches
4.Voyage and Return
Overcoming the Monster
Epic of Gilgamesh
James Bond novels and
Many tales in Greek
Dragon slayer stories
Overcoming the Monster: plot outline
The Call: The monster is introduced as a threat to a community,
country, kingdom, or mankind in general. The hero is called to
Dream Stage: The hero makes preparations for battle; he and the
monster are brought closer together. Things are going reasonably well,
and there is a comfortable remoteness from danger.
Frustration Stage: Hero comes face to face with the monster in all its
awesome power. The hero seems inferior by comparison and may even
fall into the monster‟s clutches.
Nightmare Stage: final ordeal begins, a nightmare battle in which the
odds seem stacked against the hero. But, just when all seems lost…
Thrilling Escape from Death/ Death of the Monster: in a miraculous
reversal, the hero gains the upper hand and delivers a final fatal blow to
the monster. Its dark power is overthrown. The community under its
shadow is liberated. The hero wins his prize, his princess, and/or his
Rags to Riches
Legend of King Arthur
Pygmalion/My Fair Lady
The Ugly Duckling
This plot is one of the earliest
we come to know as
Rags to Riches: plot outline
Initial wretchedness at home & “the call”: we are introduced to the hero
in his lowly and unhappy state. The dark figures are the source of his
misery. This phase ends when something happens to call them out into a
Out into the world, initial success: early efforts are rewarded, and the
hero may have some glimpse of the greater glory he will someday
The central crisis: reduced to a new powerlessness, this is the worst part
of the story for the hero or heroine.
Independence and the final ordeal: the hero is discovering in himself a
new independent strength. The hero is put to a final test, in which a
dark rival may stand between the hero and ultimate fulfillment.
Final union, completion and fulfillment: the reward is usually a state of
complete, loving union with the “Prince” or “Princess.” They may also
succeed to some kind of kingdom. The implied ending is that “they
lived happily ever after.”
The Lord of the Rings
Indiana Jones movies
The Essence of the Plot
Far away, there is a priceless
goal, worth any effort to
achieve: a treasure, a promised
land, 30 sliders from White
Castle, something of infinite
value. The hero sets out on a
hazardous journey to attain the
goal and overcomes any
number of perilous hindrances
in order to achieve the
The Quest: plot outline
The Call: life in some “City of Destruction” has become oppressive and
intolerable, and the hero recognizes that the only way to rectify the
situation is to take a long and perilous journey to achieve some related
The Journey: a series of ordeals.
Arrival and frustration: the hero arrives within sight of his goal, but a
singular or series of terrifying obstacles looms before him.
The final ordeal: time to face and defeat obstacles.
The goal: after a last “thrilling escape from death.” the life-renewing
goal is achieved.
Voyage and Return
Goldilocks and the
Alice in Wonderland
The Time Machine
Prodigal Son parable
from the Bible
Gone with the Wind
Voyage and Return
The hero or heroine travels out of their familiar, everyday “normal”
surroundings into another world completely cut off from the first, where
everything seems abnormal. The early experience might feel
exhilarating, but eventually a shadow intrudes. By a “thrilling escape”
the hero is returned to his normal world.
While this plot is as old as storytelling itself, it became much more
fashionable in Western literature after the Renaissance, when voyagers
were traveling to every corner of the globe.
These stories generally fall into two types: a) the hero is marooned on a
deserted island, or b) the hero visits a land of some strange people or
As fewer areas of the world were left to be explored, more authors sent
their heroes into different parts of time or space
A “social” voyage and return features a hero who finds himself in a
different group of people with whom he would not normally associate.
Think of The Devil Wears Prada.
The “New Comedy”: Plot
There are two ways that
the lovers are kept apart
until the end…
1. Two lovers passionately
desire to get married, but a
selfish and unrelenting
father (the dark figure)
prevents them from doing
2. There is quarrel and
confusion between the
lovers themselves, based on
Always present in comedy is
the device of mistaken
identity. Identities can be
Mysterious births and origins
Characters in disguise or
deliberately assuming new
Characters concealed in exile,
or eavesdropping in closets or
Comedy: steps of recognition
The dark figures imprisoned in an unloving state must be
softened and liberated by some act of self-recognition and
change of heart.
The identity of one or more characters must be revealed in a
more literal sense.
Characters must discover who they are meant to pair off
Wherever there is division, separation or loss, it must be
Almost uniformly, the aspect of comedy that elicits laughter
from the audience is a character‟s egocentricity, his tunnelvision, his inability to see the world as it is.
Tragedy: Five Stages
1. Anticipation Stage: hero is in some way incomplete or unfulfilled. Some
object of desire or course of action presents itself to the hero. When the
hero succumbs to this desire or thought, he has found his “focus”: Macbeth
decides to assassinate King Duncan, Icarus yields to his desire to fly close to
the sun; Dr. Jekyll drinks his potion.
2. Dream Stage: hero commits to his focus, and for awhile everything is
peachy. He feels gratified and seems to be getting away with his crime or
3. Frustration Stage: Things begin to go wrong. Hero feels restless and
insecure, commits further dark acts to secure or retain his position and
feelings from the Dream Stage.
4. Nightmare Stage: Things are now slipping completely out of the hero‟s
control. Forces of opposition and fate are closing in on him; hero falls into
rage or despair.
5. Destruction or Death Wish: either by the forces he has aroused against
him, or by some final act of violence which precipitates his own death, the
hero is destroyed.
A hero or heroine falls under
a dark spell which eventually
traps them in some wintry
state, akin to living death:
physical or spiritual
imprisonment, sleep, sickness
or some other form of
enchantment. For a long time
they languish in this frozen
condition Then a miraculous
act of redemption takes place,
focused on a particular figure
who helps liberate the hero or
heroine from imprisonment.
Rebirth: Plot points
1. Hero falls under the
shadow of a dark power.
2. Poison takes some time to
work up to its full effect.
3. Total isolation: the
darkness emerges in full
4. Nightmare stage: odds
seem stacked against a
rescue of the hero
5. Reversal/ awakening:
imprisoned figure is freed
by the power of love
The Universal Plot
The overlap and interrelationships between the
plots are immediately recognizable.
What is really to be gained from this exploration
of seven plots is NOT the compartmentalizing of
stories, but rather the joining together of all stories
into basic universal elements.
The Universal Plot
The Beginning: a hero is undeveloped, frustrated, or incomplete. This
state sets up the tension that drives the plot.
The Middle: The hero falls under the shadow of a dark power. This
power may exist outside the hero or within the characters themselves.
The End: Through a reversal or unknotting, the dark power is
Dark to light
Isolated to integrated, or vice versa
Incomplete to whole
Juvenile to mature
Ignorance to self-realization
What Kind of Story are you
1.Overcoming the Monster
2.Rags to Riches
4.Voyage and Return
1. Have you included the basic plot points in your story?
2. Outline your story to see which you have included:
Note what you are missing—these are places where
you might be able to improve your story.
3. Write a scene to include in your story.
More Story Starters
1. The harder she scratched away at her forearm the quicker the flesh fell away.
From outside the containment unit, Dr. Elena Miles and Dr. Mark Rustenburg
watched in dismay as the...
2. Marcus could hear the horn sound in the distance, a sign he was getting closer
to the island. Soon he would be face to face with the father he left behind ten
years ago. Every day since he left …
3. 45 minutes ago my cover was blown. I'd been under for...
4. I sat in the taxi fidgeting the tulle under my gown and thinking I'd rather be at
home in my flannel pajamas instead of going to...
5. I really wanted to see you again," said Rebecca. She repeatedly twirled a
strand of her long auburn hair tightly around her right forefinger until the tip
blushed then released it. "I was afraid you didn't want to see me because of…
6. He was lying face down on the raft. At first we thought he was sleeping with his
head on the inflated side as a pillow and one hand hanging over, grazing the
water's edge but then the...
7. It‟s hard to describe the sound of ripping fleshing. Even more difficult is the
sound the flesh makes when a vampire makes first bite.
• Post #14: Post a scene from your story
that demonstrates a convention or step in
• Work on your fiction project.
• Finish reading the section from Stranger
in a Strange Land.