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.