Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Master Plot Series: Other Plot Archetypes

Well, squiders, we’ve reached the end of our summer series. We’ve looked at SO MANY plot archetypes. 7 basic plots, 20 master plots, whatever the 36 plot list was called.

So, we’ve done them all, right?

You would be WRONG.

We’ve mentioned this before, but the whole plot archetype thing is really subjective, and where people draw the differences varies wildly. The three sets we went through are the most popular delineations, but they’re far from being the only ones.

So, to finish up our summer series, I thought I’d give you a quick look at some of the other plot archetype lists.

The Hero’s Journey

Perhaps the most classic of all plot archetypes is the Hero’s Journey, which was created by Joseph Campbell. There are 12 stages:

1. The Ordinary World

2. The Call to Adventure

3. Refusal of the Call

4. Meeting the Mentor

5. Crossing the Threshold

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave

8. The Ordeal

9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)

10. The Road Back

11. Resurrection

12. Return with the Elixir

Kurt Vonnegut’s 6 Archetypes

Vonnegut’s archetypes are based on the main character’s arc through each story.

1. Rise, or “Rags to Riches

2. Fall, or “Riches to Rags”

3. Fall Then Rise, or “Man in a Hole”

4. Rise Then Fall, or “Icarus”

5. Rise Then Fall Then Rise, or “Cinderella”

6. Fall Then Rise Then Fall, or “Oedipus”

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index

This is a classification system that was developed for European folklore, and divides those stories up into seven categories with subcategories.

1. Animal Tales

Example subcategories:

  • Wild Animals
  • The Clever Fox (And Other Animals)
  • Wild Animals and Domestic Animals
  • Wild Animals and Humans
  • Domestic Animals

2. Tales of Magic

Example subcategories:

  • Supernatural Adversaries
  • Supernatural or Enchanted Relative
  • Supernatural Tasks
  • Supernatural Helpers
  • Magic Objects
  • Supernatural Power or Knowledge

3. Religious Tales

Example subcategories:

  • God Rewards and Punishes
  • The Truth Comes to Light
  • Heaven
  • The Devil

4. Realistic Tales

Example subcategories:

  • The Man Marries the Princess
  • The Woman Marries the Prince
  • Proofs of Fidelity and Innocence
  • Good Precepts
  • Clever Acts and Words
  • Tales of Fate
  • Robbers and Murderers

5. Tales of the Stupid Ogre/Giant/Devil

Example subcategories:

  • Labor Contract
  • Partnership between Man and Ogre
  • Contest between Man and Ogre
  • Ogre Frightened by Man
  • Man Outwits the Devil
  • Souls Saved from the Devil

6. Anecdotes and Jokes

Example subcategories:

  • Stories about a Fool
  • Stories about Married Couples
  • Lucky Accidents
  • Jokes about Clergymen and Religious Figures
  • Anecdotes About Other Groups of People
  • Tall Tales

7. Formula Tales

Example subcategories:

  • Cumulative Tales
  • Chains Based on Numbers/Objects/Animals/Names
  • Chains Involving Death
  • Chains Involving Eating
  • Catch Tales

Man vs. ?

You probably remember these from school. These focus on the challenges that the main character is confronting. (Also, most modern lists have changed this to Person vs. or Character vs.)

  • Character vs. Character(s)
  • Character vs. Society
  • Character vs. Nature
  • Character vs. Technology
  • Character vs. Supernatural
  • Character vs. Fate
  • Character vs. Self

And these are just some of what comes down to many, many different archetype breakdowns.

So, now that we’ve talked about the varying plot archetypes–what good are they? What can we do with them?

Well, a lot of this is all academic. But, arguably, you can use them as a starting point when plotting out your story. If you know what story you want to tell, or if you know the archetype of stories like the story you want to tell, you can use the same beats as the archetype to make sure you’re hitting all the right notes. Or you can use an unexpected archetype if you want to try giving your story more punch.

Or you can try all sorts of things. Or none of them. Do what you want, man.

Well, squiders, that’s that! I’ll have a cover reveal and an excerpt for you from Hallowed Hill really soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Master Plot Series: Rebellion Against the One

Let’s just pretend this was posted last week like it was supposed to be.

So, continuing on our master plot archetype discussion we come to the ninth of Booker’s seven plots, and his final one. (As mentioned in previous weeks, despite the book being called The Seven Basic Plots there are actually nine plots.) The final plot is called Rebellion Against the One.

As the name implies, this plot involves the main character rebelling against a greater power. Almost all dystopias fall into this archetype.

There are two ways this type of story goes. One, the greater power eventually breaks the main character, resulting in the main character being integrated back into the status quo and nothing really changing. Think 1984 or Brazil. Like the Mystery archetype, Booker doesn’t approve of this archetype because there is a disconnect between the internal character arc and the story itself. With this type of story, basically everything the main character does is all for naught, so what’s the point? (Says Booker, not me.) The powerless remain powerless and the “evil” (though not always) system stays in place.

That all being said, there is a second type of Rebellion Against the One stories. The set-up is the same, where the main character is fighting against the powerful system, except now the character is successful, and the society changes through their actions. The Hunger Games, The Matrix, Scott Westerfeld’s Pretties series, etc.

How do you feel about this sort of story, squiders? Again, I do think it’s kind of funny that Booker just ignored two perfectly reasonable archetypes just because he didn’t like them. What’s your favorite dystopia?

Midjourney and a Giveaway

Good afternoon, squiders,

If you’ve been about the Internet lately, you’ve probably seen something about AI-generated images. I came across Midjourney on one of my writing Discords and have been playing with it in conjunction with my Gothic horror novella which is being released on Oct 1.

It’s interesting, because it’s so hit or miss on whether or not it generates anything useful off your prompts. Like, I got a haunted mansion surrounded by trees that I liked almost immediately, but getting a floating ghost girl has been quite hard, despite trying several iterations.

This is the best I’ve gotten:

Not quite what I’m going for, and this is several iterations and takes on trying to get the appropriate image. Ah well.

It is creepy, though. I like creepy.

I haven’t spent too much time playing with it, because it is a distraction, and there are other things to be done to get the book ready for launch. Like writing my book description, which continues to go poorly. I finally scraped together a version that I felt was worth getting feedback on, and everyone hated it, so there we are.

Also, I forgot that age ranges were a thing. Someone asked if the story was middle grade or young adult, and I’ve just been operating under Gothic Horror, but I suppose it could be considered young adult based on the age of the protagonist, so now it’s back to market research to see if YA Gothic Horror is a thing and, if so, how people are marketing for it.

Yay.

Anyway, have you played with Midjourney or other AI-image generators, and did you like them, or have any tips for getting the images you want?

In other news, Hidden Worlds is including in Prolific Works’ Doorway and Portals bundle, which means you can get a free copy starting tomorrow (Aug 17th) through Sept 7th. Which you should totally do.

See you on Thursday!

Master Plot Series: Mystery

Oho! What have we here? I can hear you saying,”But, Kit, we already did all 7 of the 7 Plot Archetypes! How are we still going?”

Christopher Booker, who wrote The Seven Basic Plots, actually has nine plots. He just doesn’t approve of two of them.

But unfortunately for Booker, just because he doesn’t like a story form doesn’t make it not an archetype.

Booker describes his 8th archetype, Mystery, as a story where an outsider tries to discover the truth of some horrible event. His objection to this as an archetype comes from the fact that the investigator doesn’t have a personal connection to the crime they’re investigating, and so the story lacks the inner conflict/emotional arc of a “true story.”

However, for the sake of argument, I would say that the inner conflict is not necessarily what makes a story. Sure, most stories do have inner conflict and the story is improved (in many cases) by the emotional impact, but we’re not here to judge stories, just to categorize them.

And mysteries are definitely stories. Very popular ones.

Some of my favorites.

And while you do find some that are basically just logic puzzles, where the investigator does come in and lead the reader through the complicated steps of How It Was Done, there are certainly Mystery stories out there where the investigator does have an emotional connection to the crime, and where there are very real consequences for the main character if the crime is not solved.

That being said, it may be that Booker considers this latter type (the mystery where the stakes are important to the main character/investigator) to fall under a different archetype. Tragedy, maybe.

Still, a Mystery is not really a Tragedy. Yes, normally at least one person dies (sometimes more, sometimes no one if something’s been stolen instead, etc.), but even if it is someone close to the main character, there’s still a different feel at the end of the story–that justice has been done, and often a feeling of triumph at having solved the problem, whatever it was. It definitely tends to be more optimistic than a Tragedy, especially if it’s a series and said character shall be seeing several people expire over the next few years.

What do you think, Squiders? Is Booker right in his dislike of the Mystery Archetype?

Favorite mysteries? I’m always up to read a new one.

Master Plot Series: Rebirth

Good evening, squiders! Today we look at our final of the 7 Plot Archetypes (though not our final entry in the series), which is Rebirth.

(In other news, I finished my edit and sent my novella off to the copyeditor, and then I attempted to do some market research for covers/descriptions on Amazon and discovered that a) there is no Gothic Horror category, and b) all the related genres–Gothic fiction, ghost horror, ghost suspense–have no patterns, so I guess I’m going to make that up as I go. Whee! Chaos.)

Anyway, onward.

7 Plot: Rebirth
20 Plots: Temptation, Transformation, Maturation, Sacrifice, Discovery
36 Plots: Self-sacrificing for an Ideal, Self-sacrifice for Kindred, All Sacrificed for a Passion, Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones (all of these related to the Sacrifice 20 Plot, none for any of the others)

Again, so interesting to see how the so-called master lists of plot archetypes don’t really line up at all.

Rebirth is one of the most classical of archetypes, being found in many major religions. At its most basic, a rebirth story has its character changing and becoming a better person, perhaps by going through some sort of trial. The rebirth can be any major transformation the main character goes through, though they are almost always for the better. Often the character(s) are living in some sort of terrible state before the transformation, and a character may not be the driver of their own story, instead being forced by fate or helped by other characters to complete their changes.

Examples: A Christmas Carol, the New Testament, Beauty and the Beast, Groundhog Day, The Secret Garden, Pride and Prejudice

Our 20 Plot archetypes don’t necessarily match the generally positive outcome of the Rebirth archetype. A Temptation story involves someone being tempted (eyyy) often in a way that will be catastrophic in some way if they give into it. These do not need to be happy stories. Transformation stories include the main character changing–usually emotionally or spiritually, unlike Metamorphosis, which we discussed in an earlier week–though unlike Rebirth stories, they don’t need to follow the same beats; any change can count. However, many of these stories do follow the same path as a Rebirth story, where the character comes out a better person. Maturation is a more specialized form of Transformation, where the character becomes wiser (and older) throughout the story. Coming of age stories can and often do fall under this.

Discovery is where the character learns something that changes their world view, forcing them to adapt to their new truth.

Sacrifice is where the character gives something up, often for their loved ones or the good of the world. The connection to the Rebirth archetype here is that the sacrifice is at the end of the story, after the character has grown and learned and become the sort of person who can make such a sacrifice. I mention this one last so we can roll into our four related 36 Plot archetypes, which are all based in the Sacrifice archetype.

Self-sacrificing for an Ideal is where the main character sacrifices something for a greater purpose, such as to change the world. Self-sacrifice for Kindred is where the sacrifice is made for a loved one, which often goes along with an understanding of what is most important in life (think of those stories where a character turns down an important promotion or something so they can spend more time with their family). All Sacrificed for a Passion is where the character gives up everything for something else (someone leaving everything they know and have worked for to move for a new love, etc.) and Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones is where the main character is forced to sacrifice a loved one (eyyy) for a greater purpose, like when Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter so the Greek troops can reach Troy.

Again, the 36 Plot archetypes don’t have to have the generally positive outcome of the Rebirth archetype.

Well, that’s our 7 Archetypes (as laid out by Christopher Booker)! What do you think? Do you feel like all the stories can fall into those 7 archetypes? Do you feel like something is missing? Thoughts on Rebirth?

Next week we’ll look at the first of Booker’s rejected archetypes, which is Mystery.

Master Plot Series: Tragedy

Buckle up, squiders. This week we’re talking about the plot archetype of Tragedy, which is perhaps the largest and most encompassing of all the plot archetypes.

7 Plot: Tragedy
20 Plots: Forbidden Love, Wretched Excess, Descension
36 Plots: Involuntary Crimes of Love, Crimes of Love, Adultery, Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One, Disaster, Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune, Murderous Adultery, Madness, Mistaken Jealousy, Remorse, Fatal Imprudence, Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized, Erroneous Judgment, Loss of Loved Ones

(Man, some of those 36 plots are quite wordy. Also oddly specific. Doesn’t mean I can’t immediately think of some stories off the top of my head, though.)

Tragedy is generally about when things go wrong. Critical character flaws, overreach of egotism, fate gone bad, etc. Pretty much every cautionary tale falls into Tragedy. The exploration of our flaws, and where they can lead us, is the backbone of this archetype.

Or, if we want to be really simple, it’s the opposite of Comedy. Or we can say it’s any story where things end badly, or where the character fails to reach their goal.

Examples: Othello, Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet (lots of Shakespeare), Anna Karenina, Dr. Faustus, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Citizen Kane, Madame Bovary, etc., etc., et al.

Moving on to our 20 Plots, we have Forbidden Love up first, which we talked about a little bit last week. Forbidden Love stories have lovers from different cultures, circumstances, already being married, etc.–basically some structure of society keeping them apart. While you can have a happy ending for this sort of story, more often they end in disaster, ala Romeo and Juliet.

Wretched Excess is where the main character lives outside societal norms, normally in a hedonistic sort of way, which eventually leads to their downfall. I want to say Great Gatsby falls into this category. And Descension is related, where the main character begins the story in a good place and everything goes downhill over the course of the story (normally due to their own actions or faults).

Now, there’s a veritable mountain of 36 plots, so we’re going to run through them pretty quick for our own sanity. (14! Which is almost half, good lord.) Involuntary Crimes of Love is where one lover does something bad (accidentally) because of their love (killing a rival, accidentally marrying their mother, killing someone blocking their love, etc.) and then the story goes on to deal with the consequences. (Lots of death in these sorts of stories.) Crimes of Love is essentially the same as Forbidden Love, where some taboo is broken because of their love. Adultery is kind of a specific form of Forbidden Love, where one or both of the lovers are already in a relationship, and Murderous Adultery is much the same, with the added fun of trying to or actually killing the spouse/partner. Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One is the other side of this, where the protagonist discovers their loved one has done something bad, though this is not necessarily related to relationships (can be stealing something, killing someone, etc.).

Disaster is where someone or something in power falls from it. Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune is where bad luck or fate causes something terrible to happen to the protagonist (can be used as an inciting incident in combination with other archetypes). Uh, where are we? Oh yeah. Madness is where the protagonist is facing someone/something who is acting without reason (not the protagonist descending into madness necessarily, though those stories can fall into this category). Horror stories often fall into this archetype. Mistaken Jealousy is where a character receives misinformation or interprets something wrong and makes terrible mistakes based on that.

Remorse is where someone has made a mistake and works to redeem themselves. Fatal Impudence is similar to Wretched Excess where arrogance causes the character to lose everything. Slaying of a Kinsmen Unrecognized is, as the name implies, where a character kills a family member or loved one without realizing it (Oedipus, etc.). Erroneous Judgment is where the protagonist has been wrongly accused of some sort of crime, or may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And, finally, Loss of Loved Ones is where the character witnesses the death of a loved one (or ones), often through said loved one(s) being murdered.

Whew. Did you make it through that okay, squiders? It’s a lot. A lot of awful, awful archetypes.

For the characters.

Next week we hit our last of the big 7 (Rebirth), but we’ll have three weeks past that, bwhahahaha.

Favorite tragedy archetypes and stories, squiders?

WriYe and Cliffhangers

How’s it going, squiders? I spent an hour or so earlier going over the timing of my novella that’s due back for copyediting at the end of the month. I had some notes from the last phase of editing where the editor was confused about how much time had passed, so I’m figuring things out in detail so I can clarify it. (And I figured out that I need to move a chapter out a day, because my MC goes to a class she doesn’t have that day, whoops.) It’s pretty time consuming, but I do have to do it every book so it’s not unexpected. Not because my timelines tend to get messed up, but just because I find it so useful as an editing tool.

Anyway, let’s do this month’s WriYe prompt.

For July: Feelings on cliffhangers? Best cliffhanger you’ve written.

I don’t know that I have any strong feelings about cliffhangers. I think they’re a tool, like any other, and that there are different ways to go about using them. I do think you can overdo them. You ever read a book that just makes you anxious continuously? A lot of times, that’s because the characters never get any moment to rest, and sometimes that can be because there’s too many cliffhangers.

I also think that, if your plot is tight enough, you don’t need that many cliffhangers. The questions you’ve built into the story, and the characters you’ve created, can pull the reader along without having to resort to cheap tricks. But they do have their place, and they can be effective.

I don’t know that I use them that often in my own writing. Or perhaps I tend to use a more subtle version, where I end a chapter with a question. But, again, you can’t do that all the time. Variety is the spice of life. And I don’t tend to write a lot of multi-book or multi-section stories, so really big cliffhangers, ones that would pull people to the next book or the next installment, are less useful for me.

That being said, I do think the cliffhanger at the end of the second part of my four-part serial Deep and Blue (the last part went up in April) is pretty dang good.

What do you think, squiders? Any thoughts on cliffhangers? Favorites?

Master Plot Series: Comedy

Good morning, squiders! I forgot yesterday was Thursday, but I’ve figured it out. This week we’ll be discussing the plot archetype of Comedy.

7 Plots: Comedy
20 Plots: Love
36 Plots: Obstacles to Love, An Enemy Loved

Don’t be confused my friends! In this case we’re talking the broader definition of comedy rather than just “make you laugh” comedy. (Just like romantic fiction originally and arguably still means fiction based on emotions, primarily as a reaction to things like the Industrial Revolution, and not just romance.) In this definition, comedies always have happy endings, and often include dramatic irony and confusion, often within relationships. These stories are often light, and can contain humor and satire.

Examples: A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Pride and Prejudice, every RomCom ever

Since this particular definition of comedy heavily leans on confusion within relationships, it’s not really surprising that the associated 20 Plots plot is Love. This is your basic romance definition–two people meet and overcome obstacles to reach their happily ever after (or happily for now). Unlike the Comedy archetype, however, the Love archetype does not have to have a happy ending (though it typically does). Wuthering Heights is an example of the Love archetype, and if you’ve ever read it you know that nobody is ever happy in that book.

(I read Wuthering Heights because I kept seeing it mentioned in other books and figured I’d better figure out what the fuss was about.)

Our 36 Plots for this week are Obstacles to Love and An Enemy Loved. Obstacles to Love is basically where there is something keeping two lovers from getting together, which is a fairly standard trope in romance novels. Interestingly, I see Romeo and Juliet listed as an example for this archetype, but that story goes along with a different 20 Plot archetype–that of Forbidden Love, which we’ll talk about when we talk about the Tragedy archetype.

An Enemy Loved is a little more complicated, and doesn’t focus on the relationship as much as the…effects of the relationship, shall we say. There’s three people in An Enemy Loved story: two enemies and then a third character that connects them. So, for example, you have two best friends, but one best friend is dating someone who used to bully the other best friend, and so there’s conflict stemming from that. Again, this is lacking the happy ending that the Comedy archetype needs, but as we’ve discussed previously, each of these lists of archetypes divides things up a little differently and don’t tend to match exactly.

If they did, hey, there wouldn’t be more than one list.

Favorite comedy stories, squiders? Thoughts about how the associated 20/36 Plot archetypes don’t really match the Comedy archetype (though they can, depending on the story)? Thoughts on Wuthering Heights?

The Well Runneth Dry

Good morning, squiders! I started this entry last Tuesday which tells you how my executive functioning has been lately.

Every month I send out short stories. Basically I have a big spreadsheet, and it lists the story, the market, acceptance/rejection, any notes I received from the editor, how long said market turned around a response, etc. I color code stories too (green means acceptance, yellow means the story was rejected from its last market, orange means a story needs attention, either a determination to pull it off of rotation or a follow-up with the market if it’s been too long) so I can tell, at a glance, where each story is.

Anyway, I realized this time around that I’ve only got 5 short stories on rotation right now.

I would swear that I had a good dozen at one point. Maybe more.

Now, admittedly, five is a lot more doable than 12. Less markets to have to research each month, less things to keep track of. And my oldest story that I had on rotation sold and was published this year (Blackened Glass, diet milk April ’22 issue), so that’s good too.

(Though I’ve probably taken as many stories out of rotation for being unpublishable as I have sold stories, honestly.)

But what this does mean, really? It means I haven’t been writing short stories to put out there. I don’t think a single thing I’m submitting was written in the past year.

That’s not great, and paired with my issues with getting my short story done for TDP this month (STILL not done, and I’ve written a whole other story and figured out how to fix the first one, though one or the other BETTER be done before this post goes live, or I will set something on fire), does little for my confidence.

Last year (was it last year? oh god), if you recall, I was doing a prompt challenge for myself, where every month I picked three random Pinterest pins of mine (one each from the character, setting, and prompt boards) and wrote a short story with them. Just for practice. It might be worth it to go back through there and see if anything’s usable, but the whole point of the exercise was just to practice. To write not for publication.

Is this actually a problem? Not sure. Am I accomplishing my goals with short stories? In the great scheme of things, they’re probably pretty far down the list of things I should be focusing on.

But I have noticed it, and being aware of potential issues is the first step to fixing them, so. There we are.

How are you doing, squiders? Tips on rebooting your brain when it’s gone into full ADHD malfunctioning mode?

Master Plot Series: Voyage and Return

Good morning, squiders! This week we’re looking at our fourth master plot, that of Voyage and Return.

7 Plots: Voyage and Return
20 Plots: Adventure, Metamorphosis
36 Plots: n/a

Again, no related 36 plots this week. Iiiiiinteresting.

Voyage and Return at first glance seems like it might be pretty similar to The Quest archetype we looked at last week, though there are differences. The Quest is mostly focused on the goal (save the princess, rescue your love, find the treasure) whereas Voyage and Return focuses more on your setting. Basically, the Voyage and Return archetype involves a character who finds themselves in a strange, new world, and who eventually returns home.

Examples of Voyage and Return: Alice in Wonderland, Cast Away, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Magicians, The Hobbit, Gulliver’s Travels, Neverwhere, The Wizard of Oz

(Side note: I apparently read a lot of this type of story.)

The idea is that the character learns new lessons that they can only learn by encountering this new world (which, to be completely clear, does not have to be a fantasy world, though it is a common fantasy trope), which they can then apply to their normal life once they return.

In our 20 Plots list we have Adventure and Metamorphosis (though, arguably, Voyage and Return requires both of these, but I digress). Adventure is very similar to Quest (20 plot version), except, like I mentioned before, the focus is not on the end goal of the journey. However, in this case, adventure is often just for adventure’s sake. The character doesn’t actually need to change or grow in any way. Think of the sword and sorcery books of the mid-1900s.

Metamorphosis, like the name implies, involves the character going through a major change of some sort–physically, emotionally, spiritually, or a combination of the aforementioned. This archetype does often include a fantasy element of some sort. In many stories in this archetype, the character is changed, and then is changed back at the end to their original self, having learned lessons while in their other form or having accomplished something that could only be done while they were changed.

Well, that’s this week’s archetype! We’re about halfway done! How are you guys feeling about the series? What’s your favorite Voyage and Return story?