Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let's talk plot...

Alright, let’s dive straight in for a little bit of plot-talk.
In my class we were talking about plot, I even had to give a little presentation. I survived it, thank you very much. And I didn’t even have to include fire-spitting men and dancing mice.
The main thing we had discussed, and which I think is most interesting to share, is the Eight-Point Arc, which comes from Aristotle. Usually this is used for film, but it will be handy, trust me... I’m Dutch.

1. Stasis
2. Trigger/Inciting incident
3. The quest
4. Surprise
5. Critical choice
6. Climax
7. Reversal
8. Resolution

Stasis: Is where the story is set in an ‘everyday life’ situation, so before everything is shot to hell.

Trigger/Inciting incident: Is the trigger that sparks off the rest of the story. Usually it is something that goes wrong (usually something beyond control of hero(ine))

The quest: is what comes after the trigger, this would be a new desire, usually where the hero(ine) has to return the world to the state it was in when everything was peachy.

Surprise: involves several elements and takes up most of the middle part of the story. There are obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble. So no happy campers at this point.

Critical choice: is the part where the hero(ine) needs to make an important decision. Usually this reveals the character of the protagonist, so what stuff (s)he’s made out of.

Climax: is the result of the critical choice. It is the part of the story with the highest tension.

Reversal: should be the result of the choice and the climax and often changes the status of the hero(ine). So they are celebrated and/or have found their true love.

Resolution: is a return to the new stasis; the characters are changed, usually better and wiser, and the story has now reached its ending. The world is restored.

The shorter (and more literary) version of this little set up is this:

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling action
  5. Resolution
This is narrative structure divided into five parts, similar to the acts of a play. This is something Gustav Freytag has come up with, since I’m throwing around names anyway.

The exposition: introduces all the characters, their relationships, goals, etc. It is basically the set-up for the story.

Rising action: is where the trouble begins. This is the introduction of all the conflict.

Climax: is where the main character makes a big decision (sound familiar?) which determines the ending and defines their character. It is where the tension is highest. This happens in the middle of the story.

Falling action: is where the loose ends are being tied up.

Resolution: is the (happy) ending of a story.

That was fun, wasn’t it? Now, lastly, some plot devices (means of advancing plot):

Deus ex machina: is where an extremely difficult problem is suddenly solved with the unexpected introduction of a character, object, event or ability. 

MacGuffin: is something that all important characters want and would do anything for to get. It can be anything; money, glory, acceptance, etc. Sometimes it is even undefined or unexplained.

Red Herring: is where a clue or interpretation is supposed to lead you off the right track. (usually in crime novels)

Subplot: is a secondary plot that is a side story. They usually connect to main plots and usually include minor characters.