7 May 2012

Ideas for kids - WHAT happens - Seven Plots in stories

WHAT happens in a story - Seven Plots - or more?
In the blog article on 26 April 2012, I outlined the work of The Centre for Children's Books which uses the name, Seven Stories.

Just to remind you, Seven Stories is Britain's gallery and archive that celebrates the wonderful world of children’s books. It is the national home of children's books. The centre takes its name from the idea that there are only seven basic plots in stories (WHAT happens - see fourth floor of the Story House), and the fact that its home is a renovated Victorian mill with seven levels. 

Since that article, I have been asked whether there really are only seven plots for stories. I can only answer that some people think there are only seven, whilst other people think there are many more.
I think, what really matters, is that you know as many PLOT WORDS as possible so that you can have them in your head and then ideas will pop into your mind when you are writing your stories. Remember that, although there is often only one MAIN PLOT in a story, you can have other plots along the way in the same story. These are often called sub-plots.

Below I've written down what some people say are seven of the main plots in stories, with a little explanation to help you think about and remember them...

1. Defeating the monster:
In the beginning there is a conflict. The hero faces a terrible threat from a human villain, creature, or other 'monster'. In the middle, the hero fights for his life and narrowly escapes death. In the end, the hero saves his home, his family, or the perhaps the whole world, from evil.
Louis has to do battle with the evil emperor's champion in Kernowland 6 Colosseum of Dread 
2. Rags to riches:
In the beginning, the hero is a downtrodden, unfortunate character who has had or is having a very bad time and so is in real trouble. In the middle, the hero uses her inner strength, beauty, or other qualities to fight against her circumstances. In the end, the hero succeeds against the odds.
3. Quest:
In the beginning, the hero is set a task. He has to find something or do something to achieve a desired result. This might involve finding a magical weapon that will stop the evil emperor or searching for a missing parent. In the middle, the hero (and sometimes his friends and helpers) usually has to travel to far-away places in order to defeat evil or find the treasure. In the end, the hero finds what he's looking for and so completes the quest.
The Questers have to find and recover magical stones from around Erthwurld in Kernowland 4, 5, and 6
4. Voyage and return:
The hero often has a normal life at the beginning. Then something happens to make her want or need to leave this normal life behind and go on a voyage of discovery to an unknown place. In the middle, she gets into all sorts of trouble and has lots of dangerous adventures. She often gets trapped in the strange new world by someone or something. In the end, the hero can only return when she manages to make an exciting escape.
5. Comedy:
The story often begins with the hero wanting to achieve something. In the middle he tries to get what he wants and there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding (which makes it funny). Usually a comedy has a happy ending where the hero achieves his aims - for example, he marries the girl, or wins the race.
6. Tragedy:
The story often begins with the hero wanting to achieve something that is really difficult. In the middle, she tries too hard and makes mistakes and things get in the way. Usually, to be a tragedy, the hero fails and there is a very unhappy ending - for example, she is banished, or even dies.
7. Born again:
The story begins with the hero behaving in a certain way. He realises he has to change a lot in order to get what he wants. In the middle, he makes the changes so it seems that he has been 'born again'. In the end he has successfully made the changes and gets what he wants and lives happily ever after.

There are some other plots that you may want to get into your head. Some of the words are difficult to understand so you could ask your teacher to explain...

The hero tries to undermine authority.

The hero (usually with an assistant or partner) helps the reader follow clues to try and work out whodunit.
Rise and Fall:
The hero has nothing, achieves a lot, and then loses everything.

Fall and Rise:
The hero has lost everything and then gets it back.

Rite of Passage:
The hero has problems growing up and becoming an adult.

The hero switches places with another character. Sometimes either comedy or tragedy - or a bit of both - happens as a result.

A Deal with a Demon:
A character makes a deal with the devil or another demon to get something he wants. He sells his soul or good name to get eternal youth, knowledge, wealth, or power. It often ends badly for the character, but sometimes he 'turns the table' on the demon and saves his soul or good name.

It might be useful to have some of the following plot words and ideas in your head as well...

Adventure, Pursuit, Rescue, Escape, Revenge, Riddle, Puzzle, Rivalry, Underdog, Temptation, Metamorphosis, Transformation, Growing up, Love, Hatred, Sacrifice, Discovery, Winning, Losing, Excess, Deliverance, Finding, Crime, Vengeance, Vigilante, Disaster, Cruelty, Prey, Victim, Good Fortune, Misfortune, Revolt, Daring, Abduction, Enigma, Fate, Obtaining, Finding, Searching, Luck, Enmity, Murder, Imprudence, Mistake, Forgetting, Remembering, Self-Sacrifice, Ambition, Spiritual, Jealousy, Judgement, Remorse, Loss, Recovery.

IDEA: In your next story, decide which of the seven main plots you want to use. Then make a few notes under three headings: Beginning, Middle, and End. For example, if it is a Quest plot, under Beginning you will have to decide who or what it is that the hero is going to be looking for and why they need to find it. For the Middle, write down a few notes about the place where the hero is going to travel to find the person or object. Who or what might the hero meet along the way? Remember that it is usually trouble and problems and conflict that make people want to read your story. Decide how your story is going to End and write a few notes down about that. Will the hero return home? When you've written some notes, you'll be ready to write your Quest story...

If you would like my Kernowland adventure stories as ebooks for viewing on your computer or other reading device, the ebooks are currently available via Amazon for less than £2 each. See the banner below for details...

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See you next time in the Story House.

Happy writing... and reading!