Sunday, March 28, 2010

Originality: Trends and Plots...continuted

For awhile there, I was afraid I was going to lost this blog.  I had been hijacked! !  Yep, my pretty crystal clock, a Blogger gadget, was the culprit, so after many hours of frustration, I finally got it and the other gadgets deleted.  Wish it were not so, I really liked that clock !

Anyway, today we're going to talk about plots and originality.  We all know that people have been making up stories ever since they learned how to communicate, and even more so once they developed written communication.  So...has every plot that is conceivable been written?  Well...yeah, probably.  I once had a Creative Writing professor tell us that there were only 7 plots in existence.  That may be true, but did you know that there are a lot of people who have 7 different plots that they believe to be the only ones in existence?  So, let's take a look at some of them:

William Foster Harris, in his Basic Patterns of Plot, written in 1959 lists these:

  • [wo]man vs. nature
  • [wo]man vs. man
  • [wo]man vs. the environment
  • [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  • [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  • [wo]man vs. self
  • [wo]man vs. God/religion

Then there are another 7 which were proposed by Christopher Booker in The Seven Basic Plots, published in 2005:

  • Overcoming the monster
  • Rags to riches
  • The quest
  • Voyage and return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth 
Hmmm.  These last 7 don't sound very appealing to me. 

Let's go about this from a different point of view.  Remember what we are taught in writing classes, whether it's ICL, online classes, college classes, or whatever...we are taught that every plot has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  What does that mean for our characters, especially our main character? 

1) Our MC has to want something very, very badly. 
2) If she (or he)  doesn't get what she wants, there are going to be consequences of some kind for her. 
3) So she goes about trying all sorts of different things to attempt to get what she wants or reach her goal, and
4) in doing so, all sorts of things happen to hinder or prevent her from attaining what she wants. 
5) Finally, though, there is some kind of resolution, wherein she either gets what she has been striving for, or...she doesn't and some of those consequences come true.

Now, don't these things happen in every single story you write, or you read?  It doesn't matter if the basic plot is a murder mystery, a contemporary novel, a novel about vampires, a fantasy about an orphan boy and a school of magic, an historical novel about the Civil War, or anything in between. The above 5 elements are what make up the beginning, the middle, and the end of your story.

And that, in turn, is your plot, right ?

So where does originality come in? In your characters: their behaviors, emotions, actions and reactions, dialogue, background, motivation, and so on; in your settings: modern day, historical era, fantasy world, etc; in your location: city streets, country/Western town, jungle, alien planet, suburbia, etc.

The basic plot of every story ever written or ever to be written is always going to be basically the same...or perhaps one of seven...but YOU are what makes it original...your voice, your characters, your scenes, your dialogue, your narrative description, your motivations, your "supporting cast," and everything else about the story that makes it YOURS.  That is your originality.

Writing is a journey.  It starts, it continues, it ends.  It is up to you to make it a journey all will want to take.

Think about it.  Let me know.