There seem to be as many theories about plot out there as there are stories in the naked city. Some experts will tell you there are seven basic plots, some that there are 20 some that there are 36.
But then some people will tell you there is only one plot in the whole of fiction, and that plot is…
Man on a mission
Doesn’t have to be a man of course, very often it’s a woman. It can also be a hobbit, or a rabbit, if you’re reading Watership Down. But the important thing is – they are on a mission. They have an aim, clearly set out near the start of the book, and they work towards it through the story with varying degrees of success or failure until in the end we find out how they have done and what the fallout from that was.
My newly released book The Pick-Up Artist certainly does – the hero of my book wants to find a girlfriend, that’s his mission.
I read another opinion recently saying there are really two basic plots. There’s your man, on his mission, or hers or its, and then you have a second which is…
And then a stranger entered the room
It stuck in my mind when I read that because it pretty much describes the plot of my first novel Song of the Sea God. In it you have an island with people living quietly and then a stranger enters the room, or washes up on the shore in this case, and everything changes.
Mind you when he washes up he has a definite aim – he wants to be a god – which means he’s on a mission, take your pick.
So there we have it, if we want to get really reductive we can get down to two, or even one basic plot.
A question for you – have you ever read a novel which fell outside of either of these?