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Story shapes that offer a way forward

From Writing

Kurt Vonnegut’s wanted to write an MA thesis on the common shapes of stories: he was told it was too simple. He can be found in various interviews and presentations waxing lyrical about the shape stories take.

His are: 1) Cinderella: needs no elaboration. Applies to incremental steps of progress, radical failure then absolute glory.

2) Boy Meets Girl similar: we know it. Applies to any story of desire for something, its loss, then recovery. Also rom-com territory.

3) Man in a Whole: things go bad, then you get out of your whole. Shawshank Redemption. Martian. Haruki Murakami wrote a novel in which the protagonist was really down a well much of the time. I feel I’m most inclined to relate to and to write this one.

4) New Testament: like Cinderella–gifted things, which are then taken away before being returned with interest.

5) Old Testament: gifted things that are taken away forever.

6) Creation Stories: God made Earth in seven days …

7) From Bad to Worse: And it never gets better. Says it all. Fallen.

8) Which Way Is Up: That ambiguity in life where we don’t know what is good or bad from actions and events. Probably the hardest to sustain. Hamlet.

What you get if you use a plot generator smile

Have a go with Plot Generator

Of far better use is TV Tropes, which is a cross-media analysis of story types, with examples and links to the authors.


1 Comment

  1. It would have been easier had I realised this earlier but Robbie is a type, what I’ve learnt can be defined as a ‘trope’ – not a cliche, but rather a type. TVTropes.org, a wiki–empoyered site has over eight thousand such tropes. I think of it as Top Trumps for writing. It means, perhaps, that I can peg an idea for a character down. There are numerous references to sych tropes across all media: tv, film, literature, animation, comics, games and more. My character Robbie, originally penned for a series of escapades in his mid–teens is not a ‘serial lover’ in the malicious sense, like a heartless Casanova, but he is a hapless addict for flirting and falling in love from the age of 12: he’s in love with the idea of falling in love. He’s the trope known as a ‘Kidanova’ – the ‘Adrian Mole’ who can get the girl, but then gets another, and another putting off the need to commit. ‘Getting off’ with these girls is feasible, being ‘seen with’ and ‘going out’ with is more likely with a different girl for every occasion, so several a day in a busy period as he moves from youth theatre to horseriding, choir to tennis, his sister’s friends, to his friend’s sisters, those where his mum lives, and those where his dad lives (the advantage to divorced parents living in different citied). Forever his companion and friend Kizzy manages his dates and diary until she falls unwell: his attention diverts to her and gradually comes into focus only for her to reject him for being ridiculous: they’ve known each other since they were six and she’s too unwell to be bothered with boys: him or anyone else. She gets better, they grew up, they date, they take their love further and it turns into something lasting.

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