Two More Classic Plot Structures

November 6, 2015

My previous post offered two classic plot structures, so I thought I’d finish the topic up with two more.

The first is the competition plot. This plot’s focus is on two rivals competing for the same thing or goal. Romance novels offer competition over a lover. Winning the championship might be the goal in a sports novel. War novels can focus on winning the political game or even taking over the entire world. And don’t overlook the competition plot about lifestyles such as urban and rural.

The competitors can be evenly matched, but they aren’t always, as in the story of David and Goliath. What’s important is the quest for the goal shows gains and losses, which can be real or symbolic.

Here are some ideas to help you decide on whether  the competition plot works in your story.

  • Is the desired goal clearly defined? It must be for this plot to work.
  • Who are the rivals and how will the reader feel about each one?
  • What reason does each rival have for wanting the desired goal? The reasons can be different for each rival.
  • How far will each rival take the competition? This is your opportunity to create plot incidents that hold your reader’s attention.
  • Which rival ultimately wins?
  • What does winning (and losing) cost each side?
  • What will you do with the losing rival to bring closure to that side of the story?

After reading these bullet points, you may think the competition plot should be violent, but you’d be incorrect. Romance and courtroom novels are two examples of nonviolent competition plots.

The last classic plot structure to consider is one already alluded to–the romance plot. Since not all romances involve competition, they deserve to stand alone as a plot structure. There may not be competition between rivals, but there are still obstacles to overcome before the two lovers can come together.

Romance plots give you an opportunity to tap into your creativity to set forth those obstacles. Romeo and Juliet dealt with parental disapproval, for example. But other obstacles abound such as culture or class differences, ideas about having children, desires regarding pursuing careers, engagement or marital status, being too much alike or not enough alike, disease, crime, politics, or just about anything that can get in the way of the lovers having a successful romance. The obstacles make the story, so let your imagination go.

Not all romance plot stories end up happy. The lovers may not end up together. The lovers may end up together, but would be better off had they not.

Here are some questions to consider regarding the romance plot.

  • Who are the lovers?
  • What obstacle(s) keep them apart?
  • What does it take to overcome the obstacle(s)? Can they do it? If not, why not?
  • What’s the end result for the lovers? Happy? Miserable?

The freedom you enjoy in writing the romance plot might lure you into thinking this is an easy plot to write. Don’t be deceived into thinking that or you’ll risk being melodramatic, or worse, cliche. Create strong, believable characters whose emotions carry your plot.

This and my previous post offer you some ideas on plot. I hope you find a plot that works for you. Happy writing!