Learn to Master Your Stories

Ronald B. Tobias contends there are 20 master plots that are prevalent throughout literature. Tobias gives these points about the "Quest" plot.
Author:
Publish date:

There are times when the story just isn't flowing. The writing goes slowly, frustration sets in and we say things like, "It's all been written before," "There's nothing new under the sun," or "I can't say it better than it's already been said by (fill in admired influence here)." That's when you have to step back and open up a copy of Ronald B. Tobias' 20 Master Plots (and How to Build Them) from Writer's Digest Books

Tobias contends there are 20 master plots that are prevalent throughout literature. In each chapter, he provides an overview, descriptions and checklists and then illustrates this point by highlighting different stories that follow the same master plots. For instance, Tobias lays Jason & the Argonauts, Gilgamesh, Don Quixote and The Wizard of Oz side by side to show they all follow Master Plot #1: The Quest.

Here are some of the points on the checklist that end that chapter:

1. A quest plot should be about a search for a person, place or thing; develop a close parallel between your protagonist's intent and motivation and the object he's trying to find.

2. Make your character substantially different at the end of the story as a result of her quest. This plot is about the character who makes the search, not about the object of the search itself. Your character is in the process of changing during the course of the story. What or who is she becoming?

3. Your hero should have at least one traveling companion. He must have interactions with other characters to keep the story from becoming too abstract or too interior. Your hero needs someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to argue with.

4. Consider bringing your plot full circle geographically. The protagonist frequently ends up in the same place where she started.

Check out20 Master Plots (and How to Build Them).

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 10

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a get blank poem.

take two 3 mistakes writers make in act i

Take Two: 3 Mistakes Writers Make in Act I

Without a solid foundation, our stories flounder. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares insights into the three mistakes writers make when creating the first act.

David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

Novelist David Jackson Ambrose discusses the initial themes he wanted to explore in his latest novel, A Blind Eye, what the editing process was like, and how his books always surprise him in the end.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Knowing When to Shelve a Project

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Knowing When to Shelve a Project

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not knowing when to shelve a project.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 9

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a persona poem (for an inanimate object).

4 Tips for Writing Engaging Frenemies

4 Tips for Writing Engaging Frenemies

No matter what genre you write, if you're planning to write characters as frenemies, you'll need to know how to do it well. Bestselling romance author Lorraine Heath shares her top tips.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Placing Blame

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Placing Blame

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, make a character place blame on someone.

Luke X. Cunningham: A Writer's Hopes for Their Readers

Luke X. Cunningham: A Writer's Hopes for Their Readers

Emmy-nominated writer Luke X. Cunningham explains how he came to write a middle-grade mystery novel and what he hopes for the kids who read his book.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 8

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a metaphor poem.