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Unusual Plot Structures

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Brett Whittaker

on 28 August 2014

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Transcript of Unusual Plot Structures

Circular Plot
A "non-linear" plot device.

Circular plots begin and end at roughly the same point, either geographically, temporally or metaphorically.

For example, a character might take an epic journey, only to arrive in exactly the same place he started.
Inverted Plot
An inverted plot begins at the end and then traces a path back to the beginning, often to show how a character reached a certain point or situation.

Inverted plots usually make heavy use of prediction and unravel slowly to keep the reader or viewer guessing.
Linear Plot
The 'normal' story plot.

Begins at the start of the story and moves chronologically through time to the end.
Example: Circular Text
Short Story:
Going Somewhere

This very short story demonstrates how effective a circular plot can be. Read it and discuss whether the circularity is geographical, temporal or metaphorical.
Example: Inverted Text
Memento, Fight Club

In the movie
, Guy Pearce's character has anterograde amnesia. The story reolves around his backwards search to discover what he has done.

NOTE: these are R rated films. You will need parental permission if you want to watch them.
Example: Straight In
The Iliad

begins in the middle of a war between the Greeks and the Trojans.
Narrative Structure
No matter which type of plot you use, the basic narraive structure remains the same:
(sets the scene, introduces the characters)
(something changes-
- to spark interest or conflict that leads to the
(the events of the story are brought to a close)
Plot Structures
Straight Into The Action
This plot type begins in the middle of the action (complication) and then uses other methods (like flashbacks) to explain the situation and orient the reader or viewer.

This method is often used in action, or fast-paced, stories.
Flashbacks are not a plot structure in their own right, but are used in all of the above to assist storytelling.

In a flashback, a character re-lives or remembers events that have occurred in the past.
Example: Flashback
Movie/Book: The Hunger Games

The character Katniss often reflects upon the past. In this scene she is remembering where she first saw Peta and his kindness towards her.
Multiple Points of View
This plot type follows more than one character, usually from a first-person perspective, to investigate an event from multiple perspectives.

Sometimes it will tell the entire story of a character before returning and telling it from a different person's point of view.
Example: Multiple PoV
Game of Thrones

The entire
Game of Thrones
series follows one character after another, telling their story before moving on to a different character to tell the story from their perspective.
Example: Inverted Text
Example: Straight In
Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles. . . .
Example: Flashback
Completely Non-Linear
Some plots are completely non-linear, using a seemingly random order of scenes.

Usually there is a reason for the random order, whether it be to reveal clues in an effective way or to build an emotion-based plot.
Crossed Timelines
Usually seen where time travel enters the plot, one or more characters are on an alternate timeline.

This can cause events to occur out of the usual order and can be used to foreshadow events.
Example: Non-linear
Pulp Fiction

The movie
Pulp Fiction
uses a seemingly random scene order, which all knit together. The reason for this is to build to an emotional climax.
Example: Crossed Timelines
Dr Who (11th Doctor)

The 11th Doctor and River Song (his wife) exist on inverted timelines (meeting each other backwards).

The Time Traveller's Wife

Back to the Future
Going Somewhere
The man in the suit was going somewher. That was how he strode into Laurie's mind the first time, ten months before - a man going somewhere. Laurie took in the coppery hair and beard - were they stylish or unkempt? The eyes were disconcertingly blue, not settling on anything near, focussed only on something distant - the place he was going. His suit was unmistakably good. To Laurie - at fifteen, transplanted by his parents from the country to the inner suburbs, wandering his new streets, marvelling at the unearthly blue of the jacarandas and the fleshiness of the suspended mangoes - the man appeared as a sign. He was going somewhere.

Laurie continued to explore his streets in those early months, even as school took over and friendships developed. The deep, damp shade, the searing light, the older houses slumping in the green shadows - it all became his own. But not his alone. He shared it with the man in the suit. He met him at every corner. While Laurie studied the lichen-encrusted palings of a collapsing fence, or the blood-red flowers of a flame tree, the man would stride past, going somewhere. But the hair and beard were now definitely unkempt: the eyes were brighter.

Laurie felt a kind of fellow feeling. By now he was convinced that he was going somewhere too. The move to the city had been a success. He felt he should acknowledge his friend, his fellow explorer - just a nod of the head. But he never did.

The man continued to change. Were those twigs in his hair? Whatever the eyes were fixed upon was more distant. The suit became dirty; then ragged. Laurie had admired the man's sense of purpose. Now he seemed like a frantic insect in a mango tree, tossed between light and shade. And now, whenever he was tossed into the light of Laurie's vision, Laurie looked away.

After almost a year in his new city, Laurie was sitting on a seat in the park, reading. It was the smell he noticed first. He looked up. The man in the suit was in front of him, standing still - but somehow standing with the same concentrated energy with which he always walked. His ravaged eyes were focused on Laurie. Was there any recognition there? There was no sign of it. Laurie and the mn looked at each other. The blue of the man's eyes was like a strange, brittle mineral.

Laurie was sickened by the animal smell. Animal? No, he realised, as a sense of menace thickened, it was not an animal smell. It must be human. And the light in the eyes too?

The man spoke. Just one wordless noise. Then his concentrated energy drained from him, and he slumped onto the seat beside him. Wherever the man had been going, he seemed to have arrived.

They sat side by side, Laurie wondering how he could leave, how he could stay. Finally he got to his feet and without looking back said, 'Um ... I've ... somewhere to go.' And he walked off, quickly. If the man made any response, Laurie didn't hear it.

He kept walking, faster, faster. But he had nowhere to go.
The 7 Plot Types
1. Overcoming the Monster
The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force that threatens the character, his/her family or homeland.

2. Rags to Riches
The poor protagonist acquires things like money, fame, power or love, then loses them, growing as a person in the process (sometimes regaining them afterwards).

3. The Quest
The protagonist and companions set out to acquire an object or get to a location, overcoming obstacles in their way

Lord of the Rings
The Wizard of Oz
4. Voyage and Return
The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats that it poses, returns home.

The Odyssey
Alice in Wonderland
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
5. (Romantic) Comedy
The protagonists are destined to be in love, but something is keeping them apart. This is resolved by the end.

Bridget Jones' Diary
A Midsummer Night's Dream
6. Tragedy
The protagonist, often a villain or a controversial character, falls from grace and dies. The death is a relief.

Romeo and Juliet
7. Rebirth
The protagonist is a villain or 'broken' character who is redeemed by the events of the story.

A Christmas Carol
The Grinch
Plot Types Activity
1. Identify one example of a text from each of the 7 plot types
2. For each, etermine whether it has a linear or non-linear plot.

1. Overcoming the Monster
2. Rags to Riches
3. The Quest
4. Voyage and Return
5. (Romantic) Comedy
6. Tragedy
7. Rebirth
An Alternate Theory
The Hero's Journey
The Hero
The main protagonist. Has problems to overcome and gains the power and wisdom to do so.

Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)
Harry Potter (Harry Potter)
The Herald
Starts the hero on their journey.

Could be an object or event.

Letter (Harry Potter)
Death of Uncle Ben (Spiderman)
Reaping (Hunger Games)
The Mentor
Helps or guides the character along their journey.

Gandalf (The Hobbit / LotR)
Pepper Potts (Ironman)
Hamich / Peta (Hunger Games)
Threshold Guardians
Exist to try and stop the hero from doing what they need to do.

Nazis (Indiana Jones)
The Krang / The Foot (TMNT)
Mutts (Hunger Games)
Creates mischief and provides comic relief. Is often a 'sidekick'.

Scarecrow (Wizard of Oz)
Robin (Batman)
Caesar Flickerman (Hunger Games)
A character who changes roles during the story (for example, a good guy becoming a bad guy).

Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates...)
Loki (Thor)
Effie (Hunger Games)
The main enemy of the protagonist and the element that needs to be overcome. Can sometimes be a thing, idea or event.

Johnny Lawrence (Karate Kid)
The Ancient Grudge (R+J)
Rules of the Games (Hunger Games)
Hero's Journey Activity
1. Choose a novel, story or film that has not already been used as an example.
2. Identify all seven of the character types in the Hero's Journey.

1. Hero
2. Herald
3. Mentor
4. Trickster
5. Threshold Guardians
6. Shapeshifter
7. Shadow

Remember they can sometimes be objects, ideas or events.
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