Friday, June 17, 2011

Working with Different Types of Plots

Most of my Blogging Friends must be thinking that  I have got hung up on plot. This is my second consecutive post on plot.

For us writers, plot is a necessary evil. Our writing careers hinge on creating gripping plots. We all know that  Plot is the literary element that describes the structure of a story.  A plot diagram is an organizational tool, which is used to map the significant events in a story. By placing the most significant events from a story on the plot diagram, we can visualize the key features of the story. I had done a post  about my plotting method: Plot Structures that Capture the Essence of the Story. It’s  simple and easy to follow.

 While researching about plot for my class, I  realized that I was really a plot novice. There was so much about plot that I had no clue about.  I am sharing what  I  discovered when I researched about plots. As many of us teach  creative writing, these explanations will help us explain plot points to students.

There are two types of plots: Linear Plots and Nonlinear Plots.

Nonlinear Plots are plots where the characters and dialogue go in more than one direction. Nonlinear narrative is also called the disjointed  or the disruptive narrative. This is a technique which is sometimes used in literature and movies, in this type of narrative the events are portrayed out of  chronological order. It is often used to mimic the structure and recall of human memory, to show memory lapses.

Several medieval Arabian Nights Tales such as ‘Sinbad the Sailor’, ‘The City of Brass’ and ‘The Three Apples’  had nonlinear narratives employing the in medias res and flashback techniques. Few examples of  Nonlinear  novels are  Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, Finnegans ‘Wake’, Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’ and Muriel Spark’s ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.’

 In Linear Plots, both the  character and dialogue are going in one direction.

 There are many types of Linear plots.

Chronological Plot in which the events are told in a chronological order; from the beginning to the end  with a middle in between and everything follows a proper sequence. Most books follow this plot structure.

Flashback Plot in which the story is told  in Flashback by the narrator through memories of the events.       
     
There is a third type of Plot : in medias res (in the middle of things) when the story starts in the middle of the action without exposition. An example is Homer’s Iliad. Most murder mysteries start this way.

In addition to this we have another plot type the Circular Plot Type. A circular plot  shares many of the characteristics of a linear plot, except that a circular plot typically begins and ends in the same or similar place. A character would go through the entire journey of resolving the dramatic question only to end up right back where they started, with nothing solved.

A skillful writer will create an unusual plot by adopting  more than one type of plot, or playing with several plot types.

So far I have only  tried the Chronological Plot for my books. The flashback plot is one  I have used for several short stories. Personally, I would love to try the in medias res for a suspense MG fiction I hope to outline in the near future. Which kind of plot type would you all like to try? Do you know of any other types of plot  that will be of interest to us. Please tell us.


20 comments:

  1. Hi Rachna...what an informative post for us (your readers). I envy your students, you sure take a lot of effort to simplify things for them. Have a super weekend.

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  2. I had no idea that there were so many kinds of plots. Thanks for the information.

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  3. I'm a fan of the circular plot, I don't know why. I've written that many times as well!

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  4. I tend to be pretty linear in my writing, but maybe because I'm too chicken to try the other kinds!

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  5. Interesting analysis. I guess the more we understand the available options the more it opens doors to our creativity.

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  6. I've always thought it would be interesting to tell a story backwards. Start at the end. Then what came before that. Then before that, etc., etc. and end at the beginning with the initiating incident that started it all.

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  7. Sometimes writers get so hung up on characters, plot becomes an unfortunate casualty. Great post!

    Just 1 Writer

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  8. Great post, Rachna. I confess to possessing a literary chicken heart. I've done purely chronological plots for the most part, though if you think about it, all modern stories SHOULD BE (doesn't mean they are!) in Medias Res plots. Our characters have lives in which interesting things happened before this story. Unless they die, interesting things will happen after this story too (and if you're smart, you'll make your reader imagine what those events are). The trick is to find the most interesting part of their story and begin there, but you're right, exactly where and how you launch into telling the story from that point can be a fascinating journey.

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  9. I like chronological plots. It's the one that prevents my WiP from frying my brain. Of course, I play around with the plot in that I have two going on at any given time.

    :-)

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  10. Great post. I love plots that flow, I find some plot lines confusing, but I prefer a complex to a simple plot as it has more flesh on the bone :O)

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  11. I surprise myself by saying this since I tend to be so "regimented" about grammar rules, and rules in general, but I am a big fan of non-linear plots these days. ti seems a lot of literary fiction today (in the US, at least) employs the every-other-chapter in present tense, then flashback. Knowing "me," I would have thought I wouldn't have liked it. But I don't mind it at all. In fact, I like it!

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  12. Great post. Made plots very clear and simplified things for me.

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  13. Great post! I've mostly written linear, but I like non-linear plots lines... I'll have to try it sometime.

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  14. Like everyone else I've mostly written in linear. I once wrote a short story that went backwards. That's a challenge. I wouldn't mind trying a circular plot one day.

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  15. Since I've only written in the chronological plot form (sprinkling backstory in here and there), I never gave thought to any other plot category. Thanks so much for this post--I've learned something new! And you've offered food for thought for other projects... :-)

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  16. Such an interesting post. I don't remember learning about this in English lessons.

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  17. So far, I've been using a chronological plot. I'd like to try something slightly different though. Informative post!

    Ellie Garratt

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  18. Really good summation of the different types of plots, Rachna. You reminded me of a few things.

    Jai

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  19. I'd love to try the circular plot. I've only done that with a short story and I'm not sure it was all that good. Thanks for posting this. I don't always think about the technical aspect of what I do when I construct my stories.

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  20. Great post, Rachna! I'm definitely bookmarking this for reference. Thanks for sharing!

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