There are many schools of thought surrounding plot. One, originated and popularized by Foster-Harris (no first name given), stated that there is only one type of plot.

Attempts to find the number of basic plots in literature cannot be resolved any more tightly than to describe a single basic plot. Foster-Harris claims that all plots stem from conflict. He describes this in terms of what the main character feels: “I have an inner conflict of emotions, feelings…. What, in any case, can I do to resolve the inner problems?” (p. 30-31) This is in accord with the canonical view that the basic elements of plot revolve around a problem dealt with in sequence: “Exposition - Rising Action - Climax - Falling Action - Denouement”. (Such description of plot can be found in many places, including: Holman, C. Hugh and William Harmon. A Handbook to Literature. 6th ed. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1992.) (x)

So, according to Foster-Harris, there is only one type of plot: Conflict → Resolution.

Yes, in a broad sense, this is true. There is no plot without conflict, as the saying goes. But that’s pretty vague, wouldn’t you say? There has got to be a more specific breakdown of the different types of plot out there… right?

Right. However, it is worth noting that Foster-Harris’s simplistic view of plot as conflict is extremely useful. Once you realize that conflict must be an integral part of your story, you are one step closer to crafting an interesting, enduring narrative.


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