Novel Planning #2 – Plot-Type

Yesterday, I introduced this week’s series of posts about planning for novel-writing.  Step back there for one method, or read on for another method of planning your forthcoming masterwork. I refer to these masterworks as novels, but these methods would work with a bit of tweaking for other writing formats too.

Today, let’s look at plotting the Christopher Booker way.

Those who have been following my Booker’s Seven project will know the basics here. Christopher Booker says there are only seven basic plots in the world, and all stories fall into one or other. You might not agree, but if you do, you can probably identify which of those seven yours falls into. They are:

Overcoming the Monster

Rags to Riches

The Quest

Voyage and Return

Rebirth

Tragedy

Comedy

How, you have to be a bit slick, because Comedy doesn’t necessarily mean funny; it ties in more with the Shakespearean definition, and has a lot to do with large casts of characters, and situations caused by miscommunications between them. Think Much Ado About Nothing or Twelfth Night. Similarly, Overcoming the Monster might not involve a physical monster, but more something internal or an external (but non monster-y) challenge like an asteroid heading for earth.

Anyway, once you’ve picked out which Booker Plot you are intending to write, you can use it to plan your novel. Ideally (certainly in Mr Booker’s mind) you’d go out and buy his book, for a full breakdown of what that plot entails. Alternatively, you can go online and google search some summaries of his ideas. Like this one at tvtropes.org.

The plot is neatly broken down for you into stages, and your task is simply to take each stage and write a couple of paragraphs detailing how that stage will look in your story. Take time to think not only what will happen, but why, how the characters will react and – particularly if you have a target word count for the whole piece – who long that stage will be. Remember, as we saw yesterday, not all stages should be the same length.

6 Comments

Filed under Booker's Seven, Writing

6 responses to “Novel Planning #2 – Plot-Type

  1. i had a writing teacher who said that there are only two stories: 1. a stranger comes to town, and 2. someone goes on a trip. i heartily disagreed. then i looked at the first sentence of the story i was working on at the time, and in that very first sentence my main character got on a bus. oh well.

    • haha! I’m not sure I agree with those classifications, but the other question is – how useful are they? Sure, someone might arrive or leave, but is that helpful in writing or interpreting the story?

      • i didn’t agree with the two simple classifications, but it was funny how i protested but had followed one of them perfectly right from the first sentence.

      • Funny one. I feel inclined to disagree wholeheartedly with the classification, because it is based on a purely incidental factor.
        It reminds me though, of another ‘rule’ that is equally doubtful I think: I have been taught long ago that there’s a place, a central place, where your story is mostly happening. (be it the path to a place). And there’s no story without change. Assuming these, I could understand this classification as: either the place is disturbed by something, or ‘the place’ isn’t set yet, it is perhaps the path to a destination.

  2. My issue with the Booker’s Seven is that many stories could fall under several of his categories. The same story might feature a monster, rags to riches as the MC grows, a voyage and/or a quest.

    I suppose a Booker-ite might say the emphasis of the story determines which of the seven it is, but I don’t like classification systems where all of the categories seem correct depending how you look at ’em.

    • I’m inclined to agree, Victoria. I look at where he has placed some famous novels and I disagree, so clearly much is open to interpretation (I think he has Harry Potter down as Rags to Riches, for example. Perhaps the first book, just about, but I’d say it’s really more of a Quest / Overcoming the Monster in focus). As I said to Rich, I’m also not sure how useful these classifications are to most people. However, if one of the models stands out to you as fitting well with your plan, it can help to give the story a good arc during the outlining phase.

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