Part I - The Big Four: Exploring Plot Types
Before we start, it will be prudent to know what kind of plot you seek for your project. There are four main types that we will explore here:
- The character-driven plot.
- The event- or situation-driven plot.
- The world-driven plot.
- The concept- or theme-driven plot.
The character-driven plot is employed in stories that are propelled forward by the learning, changing character or characters. Harry Potter is an example of character-driven plot. I have one friend who is absolutely certain that this is the future of literature, because of the way we view and understand the human psyche.
The event-driven plot takes as its focus the events or chains of events that affect characters and the world in which the story is set. Choose-your-own adventure books are event-driven. Another example is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, in which the absurd situations that arise out of the setting are the main focus of the novel and the characters have no choice but to adapt, go insane, or recognize the futility of existence. (Pretty bleak, right? It's an amazing book, though!)
In the world-driven plot, the main focus is developing a world and establishing its history, cultures, geographical features, fate, etc. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is world-driven, with much of its focus on describing the qualities of its settings and the patterns of its fate, with its characters merely serving as means toward realizing that fate.
The concept- or theme-driven plot takes as its focus one central concept or recurring theme. As amusing as it sounds, most sci-fi and most religious writings are theme- or concept-driven. Son of Man by Robert Silverberg and 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke are both concept-driven, as the main character is not as important as allowing the reader to experience the authors' concepts through him. Likewise, Planet of the Apes and George Orwell's Animal Farm are also concept-driven, using parallels of human history to illustrate that certain qualities inherent in civilized society will cause patterns to repeat themselves. Religious texts, such as the Bible or, on a more spiritual level, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, are also concept- or theme-driven, because their focus is on the teachings of holy men rather than on characters, events, or worlds.
The first question you must ask yourself as a writer is this: "What is most important in the story I'm trying to write?" Is it the character(s) you love? The world you've created as the setting? The events or situations you've come up with? The concept or theme you desperately want to get across to the reader?
This question is not meant to corner you; on the contrary, it is meant to make your life easier. By deciding on a main kind of plot, you are by no means confining yourself, either. Many stories take aspects of two or more kinds of plot to keep the reader entranced.
However, it is best to start simple and work toward the more complex. So, as soon as you can answer this question with what you honestly want, the sooner you can be on your way to drawing up your outlines.
Speaking of outlines---on to Part II - Get Out the Map: Drawing Up Outlines!
Please see links below.
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