Ronald B. Tobias, author of 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them, doesn’t mess around with plot. Tobias rightly says that “plot is a process, not an object”, and that while “plot is structure”, it is “dynamic, not static” as the idea of structure leads us to believe. With all of this in mind, Tobias offers twenty (the last item on the list counts as two) different plot types for us to ponder. They are as follows:

  1. Quest. Character oriented story, the protagonist searches for something and winds up changing him/herself.
  2. Adventure. Plot oriented, this features a goal-oriented series of events.
  3. Pursuit. This is the typical Chase Plot. Definitely action-oriented.
  4. Rescue. Another easy to recognize action-oriented plot.
  5. Escape. A variation on the Rescue is when the protagonist escapes on his/her own.
  6. Revenge. Ah, character comes back in with this one. Someone is wronged and vows to take revenge.
  7. The Riddle. Love a good mystery? This is the plot for you.
  8. Rivalry. Character oriented, this story follows two main characters, one on a downward track and one on an upward track and their interactions.
  9. Underdog. Everyone is the US roots for the Underdog. This is the plot where the under-privileged (handicapped, poor, etc) triumphs despite overwhelming odds.
  10. Temptation. Pandora’s Box extended to novel form.
  11. Metamorphosis. This is a physical transformation of some kind. If you recently watched the movie, “District 9″, you’ll recognize this plot form. It’s Dracula, Beauty and the Beast, or the one I remember best is The Fly.
  12. Transformation. Similar to the previous, this plot features an inner change, instead of changing the outer form.
  13. Maturation.Bildungsroman, rite of passage, coming-of-age–these terms all refer to someone growing up morally, spiritually or emotionally. Often, it’s just a hint of growth, or a tiny change that hints at larger changes.
  14. Love. The classic Boy-meets-Girl plot.
  15. Forbidden Love. Oh, hasn’t Stephenie Meyer milked this one in her Twilight series? Brilliant use of the forces that keep her characters apart, while still attracting.
  16. Sacrifice. From the Biblical tale of Jesus to the story of parents sacrificing for their children, this is a staple of literature.
  17. Discovery. You know those secrets you’ve buried deep in your past? This story digs around, exposes secrets and watches them affect the characters.
  18. Wretched Excess. When a character is in a downward spiral from alcohol, drugs, greed, etc. this is the plot form.
  19. Ascension or Descension. A rise or fall from power puts a character into this plot form. (x)

When you’re devising your plot, scan this list for the plot type your story may reflect, or else choose one of these types and “write to it” (i.e. write with it in mind).

Why are these important? These twenty plot types are a pretty solid list of the stories folks want to read and pretty much outline every kind of story there is to tell. If you’re writing with one of these plots types in mind, you’re writing a story that already has an eager audience.


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