plot

How to make a universal plot unique

Universal plot

Every single story follows this form:

A character has a threatening problem, the character struggles to overcome the problem either within or outside of himself (or both).

The slightly more elaborate function lists basic plot points (here).

Yet Aristotle claims only 6 plots exist:

1. man vs man
2. man vs society
3. man vs gods
4. man vs himself
5. man vs nature
6. man vs machine

Yet another may claim there are 7 plots:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

Lots of authors claim there are only a fixed number of dramatic plots that exist. Some go up to 36-40 plots. It doesn’t matter. Look up at the lists and compare them. Do you notice something? It’s all awfully abstract isn’t it. They use different abstract ways of categorizing plots.

Your idea isn’t original and that’s OK, because you are

Just when you’ve come up with an idea, you hear about a book/play/film/whatever that has nearly the exact same plot. You’re devastated, thinking you need to abandon your idea and seek a new one. You’re wrong.

It’s all been done before, and that’s okay. Why? Because people like familiarity. Some people are obsessed with post-apocalypse stories. Others love stories on house-wives that have sinister secrets. We all like certain kinds of stories, we favour certain plots. We watch countless similar movies and still enjoy them. We gladly watch a re-make of a story we already know by heart and loved in its original form. So don’t be deterred.

Give two writers the same basic plot and set them writing. The resulting stories will be entirely different. Your story will be entirely different from everybody else writing on the same topics. Why? Because nobody else writes it your way.

How do you show your uniqueness?

The devil is in the details. Really get specific, describing it exactly as you see it and show that.