Two Classic Plot Structures to Consider in Writing Fiction

October 20, 2015

There are several classic plot structures used in fiction. Here are two you might consider.

Chase/Rescue

This plot structure is based onĀ  a person or group pursuing another person or group. You can tell it from the point of view of the pursuer, of the pursued, or alternate between the two.

You get to decide which (the pursuer or the pursued) is the good guy and which is the bad guy.

You get to decide whether the pursuer is successful or the pursued escapes.

If you expand the chase to become a rescue, the pursuer needs to either rescue the one being pursued OR save someone from the one being pursued. Thus, you really have three dynamics going on–the pursuer, the pursued, and the victim in need of rescuing.

Here are some things to consider for the Chase/Rescue plot structure.

  • Who is pursuing whom?
  • What caused the pursuit in the first place?
  • Who do you want your readers to sympathize with?
  • What happens to the pursued if the pursuer catches them? If the pursuer doesn’t?
  • How will you handle the final outcome–do you demonstrate the catch or imply the escape?

Search/Quest

You may see similarities between the chase/rescue and search/quest plots, but there is one huge difference. The search/quest plot is about something (not someone) being sought.

That something could be an object, place, or it could be an obsession with something such as fame, mastery, the answer to a consuming question, or imposing one’s will.

Here are some things to consider for the Search/Quest plot structure.

  • What is being sought?
  • Why is it being sought?
  • What obstacles need to be overcome in order to find it?
  • Who else is looking for this thing and why?
  • What price is your character willing to pay to find this thing, place, or satisfy this obsession?
  • Will your character eventually find this thing?
  • If so, will it be found where the character expected to find it or somewhere else?
  • What will your character do upon finding the object, arriving at the place, or satisfying the obsession?
  • If the character is looking for a place, will your character stay in the new place or try to go back home?
  • How will others in the story react if the object is found?
  • How will you conclude your story?

Think about some of the best known fiction and you’ll see many use one or the other of these two classic plot structures. Why not try one yourself? Happy writing!