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Part I - The Big Four: Exploring Plot Types

Before we start, it will be prudent to know what kind of plot you seek for your project. There are four main types that we will explore here:

- The character-driven plot.
- The event- or situation-driven plot.
- The world-driven plot.
- The concept- or theme-driven plot.

The character-driven plot is employed in stories that are propelled forward by the learning, changing character or characters. Harry Potter is an example of character-driven plot. I have one friend who is absolutely certain that this is the future of literature, because of the way we view and understand the human psyche.

The event-driven plot takes as its focus the events or chains of events that affect characters and the world in which the story is set. Choose-your-own adventure books are event-driven. Another example is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, in which the absurd situations that arise out of the setting are the main focus of the novel and the characters have no choice but to adapt, go insane, or recognize the futility of existence. (Pretty bleak, right? It's an amazing book, though!)

In the world-driven plot, the main focus is developing a world and establishing its history, cultures, geographical features, fate, etc. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is world-driven, with much of its focus on describing the qualities of its settings and the patterns of its fate, with its characters merely serving as means toward realizing that fate.

The concept- or theme-driven plot takes as its focus one central concept or recurring theme. As amusing as it sounds, most sci-fi and most religious writings are theme- or concept-driven. Son of Man by Robert Silverberg and 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke are both concept-driven, as the main character is not as important as allowing the reader to experience the authors' concepts through him. Likewise, Planet of the Apes and George Orwell's Animal Farm are also concept-driven, using parallels of human history to illustrate that certain qualities inherent in civilized society will cause patterns to repeat themselves. Religious texts, such as the Bible or, on a more spiritual level, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, are also concept- or theme-driven, because their focus is on the teachings of holy men rather than on characters, events, or worlds.

The first question you must ask yourself as a writer is this: "What is most important in the story I'm trying to write?" Is it the character(s) you love? The world you've created as the setting? The events or situations you've come up with? The concept or theme you desperately want to get across to the reader?

This question is not meant to corner you; on the contrary, it is meant to make your life easier. By deciding on a main kind of plot, you are by no means confining yourself, either. Many stories take aspects of two or more kinds of plot to keep the reader entranced.

However, it is best to start simple and work toward the more complex. So, as soon as you can answer this question with what you honestly want, the sooner you can be on your way to drawing up your outlines.

Speaking of outlines---on to Part II - Get Out the Map: Drawing Up Outlines!
Please see links below.

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Because of the scope of this guide, I have broken it up into five manageable parts:

The Purpose-Driven Plot
Part I - The Big Four: Exploring Plot Types (you are here!)
Part II - Get Out the Map: Drawing Up Outlines
Part III - Just Around the River Bend: Subplots
Part IV - Backwards is Forwards: Formal Analysis in Reverse (coming soon)
Part V - Git'r Done: The Exercises (coming soon)

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Stock resources for preview image:

~flora - newspaper clippings
~Sammykaye1sStamps - target figure
~JavierZhX - vector brushes

* Yes, the title of these articles is a spoof on The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. :lol:
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Daily Deviation

Given 2011-10-01
The Purpose-Driven Plot Pt. 1 is an excellent installment in *jamberry-song's five-part writing guide series. ( Featured by nycterent )
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2015  Professional Writer
A very cool insight!
Alexei-Nikulkin Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2015
Good day. You've made a very good writing guide, it explains a lot of things. May I ask just a few questions? I've tried to find the answers everywhere, but the all-knowing Internet isn't really all-knowing, it seems.

First. Is it really a crime to write event-driven and world-driven stories? Apparently, it is, because practically everybody says so. But I fail to see why. My stories tend to fall into these two categories, and I find them pretty enjoyable. But everybody tells me: "no-no, the character-driven plot is the only plot; if you try to write anything else, no one will publish/read it". And of course, no one explains why.

Second, is there a need to show "character growth" (or whatever it is called) in an event-driven/world-driven story? My protagonists tend to be "epic" heroes who do not change, and they don't need to. But again, everyone says that I must give them this "character growth", and that they should always "learn a lesson". This too is absurd. After all, characters like Gandalf don't need to "learn a lesson" to be interesting/to drive the story forward, right?

(It should be noted that my stories do have dynamic characters, but I prefer to keep most of my main heroes static)

Your advice is much needed.
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Edited Feb 27, 2015  Professional General Artist
These are very good questions and I hope I can answer them satisfactorily for you.

Trends work in cycles. Today, the character-driven plot is the most popular and generally the most critically well-received kind of plot (just as it was in the mid- to late 1800s). This does not mean other kinds of novels and stories aren't written and published, and it doesn't mean something outside the trend won't sell well. So anyone saying that you can't write a different kind of plot or that character-driven plot is the only plot, well they are simply wrong. Would your chances of being published be higher if you wrote good character-driven plots? Probably, because that is what's popular right now. Books like The Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones, even Lord of the Rings prove world- and event-driven plots are capable of enduring popularity. I would argue that 50 Shades of Grey is event-driven, and it is extraordinarily successful. To seek success outside the popular plot, one must incorporate another incredibly popular element, or be extremely skilled in the execution; both of these things carry their own challenges.

As for character growth, human beings are complex; we are growing and changing constantly. You and I are not the same people we were ten years ago; our daily routines have changed, our bodies have physically changed (we are older, taller, we have more scars), our minds have changed (we have learned so many new things, we have questioned so much, we have grown emotionally attached to new people and new ideas, and have let go of some of the people and ideas we once knew and loved). This growing and changing is a part of everyone's lives, it is a fact of life itself. So if you expect me to believe that a character can go through so much through the course of a book and come out unchanged at the end, I simply won't agree with you. It is not possible. There must be some change, some growth, or your character will not ring true. The change may be "learning a lesson," or it may manifest itself in another way. After all, Gandalf began the story as Gandalf the Gray, and by the end he had become Gandalf the White; Aragorn transformed from a humble ranger into a glorious king; Frodo went beyond his conservative lifestyle full of dreams to being a tortured but courageous hero; Gollum went from being an ordinary fellow to being a selfish, mangled little imp. Change happens and static is generally a bad thing.

Feel free to ask any more questions you might have or let me know if I need to clarify something. :) Also, feel free to respond with more of your own thoughts on these subjects!
Alexei-Nikulkin Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2015
Thanks for your answers. I saw them two minutes after you posted them. :)

So this explains everything. Once again, this proves that all those "writer's sites" are garbage. They teach us to write "trendy" novels, nothing more. And now I understand what "character growth" is. Practically every piece of writer's advice I saw told me that "character growth" equals "character learns a lesson".

Hovewer, I still don't understand the need for this "character change". If Gandalf the Grey didn't become Gandalf the White, it wouldn't make him less realistic. But here's another question: does the "change" have to be permanent? Of course, my heroes become rather depressed after each quest, but this "change" is temporary and in the next story everything is back to normal. This isn't the first time they do such quests, after all. They learned to cope with all kinds of hardships.
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2015  Professional General Artist
Yeah, the thing about those websites is that they are geared less toward people who want to write and more toward people who want to be published, if that makes any sense. It's a shame that you've not found any that properly explain character development/growth.

These are more really good questions. The thing about Gandalf the Gray and Gandalf the White, it's not necessarily about being realistic but being believable (i.e. making sense within the context of the fantasy world). Believability is an important quality for writing, because you want your readers to be able to suspend their disbelief enough to follow along with the story and become attached to it. To answer your question, the changes don't HAVE to be permanent. But like with real people, some changes will be permanent. Temporary depression after another character dies makes a lot of sense and would be perfectly believable; having long-term PTSD after a traumatic even or experience, though, would also make sense. Think about one thing that happened to you when you were a kid that really affected your long-term decisions or made an impression on who you are as a person. This is the kind of thing you want for your characters. You don't want to make them so different that they become unrecognizable, just enough to give them a sense of being alive. It sounds like you're mostly on the right track.
Alexei-Nikulkin Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2015
Thanks. Those shallow "writer's sites" caused so much confusion. You've helped me greatly.
True, believability is what I strive for. So many modern stories sacrifice believability for the sake of plot. :(
Alexei-Nikulkin Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2015
Good day, I have another question (No way to edit my previous comment "thanks" to usual DA bugs, so I'm posting this here).

Does an event/world driven story have to follow the traditional three-act/four-act structure? The truth is that I find both these structures annoying and uncreative. They are very good for a short story, but using them in a novel feels like "milking a dead cow". So many novels are weak because the first few acts are just one long and boring buildup to the climax. Yet once again, everybody says that I'm obliged to use the three-act/four-act structure.
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015  Professional General Artist
Personally, I don't think so. If you can make it work using a different structure, by all means, do it! The world would be a very boring place if all stories followed the same two or three structures. What you need to do is ask yourself what structure would best suit the story you're trying to write. :)
Alexei-Nikulkin Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015
Thanks. I heard Aristotle liked the four-act structure, and that's why everybody says we should use it all the time. They apparently forgot that in ancient Greece, stories tended to be much shorter. :)
Pretty much every four-act story I ever read was boring because of huge amounts of filler. The first and third act in particular are nearly always a waste of time.
Thanks again for the advice.
AlimationX Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
How do event driven plots work?
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013  Professional General Artist
Have you seen the T.V. series "Game of Thrones"? That is arguably an event-driven plot, since little time is devoted to developing the world and the characters (in the show, anyway; I can't speak for the books because I've never read them). The things that happen in the show drive the characters, propel the plot. Does that make sense? :)
AlimationX Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes! I love game of thrones!
I see, so event driven stories are more about unexpected things happening and moving the story in unexpected directions?
AlimationX Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Good advice!
I'd like to try a world based plot.
Notyrgrl Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013  Student Writer
mossi-mo Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah! Congrats on the DD! This is a really good tutorial set. I look forward to seeing it completed. Not only is it well formed, it's concise. I'll definitely be recommending this to my friends. I can never manage to explain things this clearly and briefly.
cehlsea Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
Amazing...all I've been looking for!
LightLoveAngel Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
oh, my, super helpful with being a aspiring author :D thank you!
Delicatesilver Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Such a large help. Thank you for creating this.
Natmonkey Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This will be useful. Thank you!
Tsuruda Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Very instructive and clear. +Faved for future reference.
the-Mad-Hatress Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Student General Artist
Mad helpful, danke.
M-shine694 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
cant wait for all the 5 parts to come out ;D
AfroBlade Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011
AWESOME!! I've only just recently figured out what I wanted to do for my novel so having a guide to look at when I feel lost like this is a BIG help.
Filteredwords Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Student Writer
Great guide for writes everywhere. It's amazing how we forget.
Lit-Twitter Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011
Chirp, congrats on the DD, it's been twittered. [link] :)
Vigilo Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Student Writer
Congratulations on your DD! This looks super-helpful and I can't wait to read them all. :heart:
Euxiom Featured By Owner May 16, 2011
Niceee. I have a feeling this guidething'll be helpful. You explain things, frankly, quite awesomely.
rlkirkland Featured By Owner May 16, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
:D Looking good... could be very helpful :)
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