Authors Note: So I realized that the original post was a tad bit long, but if you're looking for just the 7 basic plots, here you go. You can always reference the original post for examples of these plots, should you require a more in depth explanation on how these plots work. Citations for this document could be found on my website for further reading and reference.
Chapter 3: What You Should Write About; Section 1B: The 7 Basic Plots (Simplified)
So now that you've made it this far. You understand why you want to write the book, and you also have the understanding that your audience could make or break your career. Just as you sit down to work on the precious work of a masterpiece you call a novel, you are suddenly stricken by a harsh, common reality…what should you write about!? Well, fellow reader, I can assure you that might just have the answer that you seek.
This chapter will be a little longer because I'll be discussing three main things. Since this is the case, I'll be breaking it up into three parts. In part one, I'll be discussing the 7 Basic Plots that you can write about. This will give you an idea of what types of stories there are, and will help you identify themes and tropes that are found within each of these 7 categories. Part two (Selecting Your Genre) will look into what genres there are, everything from fantasy to romance will be covered in this section. Knowing what types of genre there are will teach you what concepts and cliches are present in said genre. Last, but not least, part three (Selecting Point of View) will conclude the chapter with the five types of point of view there are.
By the end of this chapter, dear reader, you'll be able to choose what genre you want to write about, and what point of view you're most comfortable with. There's no time to lose, so let's jump in.
The 7 Basic Plots
So as I've mentioned in the paragraph before, there are 7 basic plot points that have ever been written through the ages. There are some people who would say there are more, but I can assure you, dear reader, there are only 7.
The first thing that we should talk about however is the overall meta-plot. The plot that every story, regardless of genre, has. According to Wikipedia, there are five stages for this: the Anticipation stage, the Day-Dream Stage, the Reality Stage, the Nightmare stage, and the Resolution Stage. Personally, I'd say that there's six instead of five, breaking up the Resolution stage with the Resolution and Rebirth stage, but let's be conservative here, and keep it at 5, for the sake of simplicity.
Let's start with the Anticipation Stage. This is where the hero of our story is called upon to the adventure to come. Of course, the way the sentence is worded will "imply" that this only applies to fantasy, but that's farther from the truth. We can get something as far from fantasy such as a drama/slice-of-life and apply to the first part of the book. However, it is easiest to describe it with a fantasy novel, so let's get the Lord of the Rings, for example. At the beginning of the tale, our protagonist, Frodo Baggins, is enjoying life in the Shire (SPOILER WARNING) when he is dragged into a chase across the Shire towards the Prancing Pony, a tavern on the far side of the Shire, carrying along the Ring of Power.
Next, we have the Day-Dream Stage. This stage is normally marked by the hero's constant success, reoccurring over and over again. This gives the illusion to the MC (the main character) that he/she is invincible. This can be seen in tale Beowulf after killing Grendel, and he goes to kill Grendel's Mother, he feels unstoppable. This is backed up even further when Beowulf is granted power using Grendel's mother and then becomes the ruler of all the land. No one was able to stop Beowulf until the dragon came. This leads into the next stage in our list, the Frustration Stage.
Third on the list is the Frustration Stage. It predicts that our hero of the story has their first confrontation with the antagonist and they realize that the hero isn't as invisible as they thought they were. A popular drama/coming-of-age novel, the Outsides by S. E. Hinton, has the main character, Ponyboy Curtis, is pulled out of his day to day life when his best friend, Johnny, stabs one of the members of the rival gang, the Socs. This drags our protagonist across the state into an adventure they didn't want, or we can use the previous example, and show how the dragon came to Beowulf's kingdom and made him realize that he wasn't as powerful as he thought.
Coming in at number four, the Nightmare Stage. The Nightmare Stage is where essentially poop hits the fan. This is normally where the climax of the story occurs, and basically, authors tend to simulate hopeless at this point. The MC has to feel that no matter what he does, he will never get past the threat that is in front of him. Take for example, in the movie Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, there is a scene called "Forth Eorlingas", where Gandalf the White says to his fellowship. "At first light, on the fifth day. At Dawn, look to the east." The battle has been doing on all night and there is no sign of the Uruk-Hai will stop. This is one of my favorite scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and is perfectly executed. Movie praising aside, this scene shows how hopelessness is being built as the battle draws to a near, and the reader (or viewer) sense that our protagonists might actually lose the battle. This blends perfectly with our next stage, the Resolution Stage.
Finally, comes the Resolution Stage. This stage is marked when the hero of our story overcomes his burden against all odds. This could be seen in the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers film in the scene "Forth Eorlingas". All hope is lost as the Uruk-Hai are taking over the battlefield. Then, suddenly, when the first light comes, Gandalf shows up with reinforcements, and the other MC's are motivated to continue fighting, pushing harder than ever! Honestly, this is one of my favorite scenes, because it gives the reader (viewer) that hidden hope that as buried under all the bloodshed.
To do a quick recap of the five meta-plot parts: You have the Anticipation States, where the hero is called to the adventure to come, the Dream Stage, where the hero has success and gives him/her the illusion of invincibility, the Frustration Stage, where the hero has his/her first confrontation with the antagonist and loses that sense of invincibility, the Nightmare Stage, the climax of the plot, and where all hope is lost, and finally, the Resolution Stage, where the hero/heroine overcome their burden against all odds.
Now that we have our basic plot structure set up, we could go into a little more detail and start categorizing into the 7 basic plots. These plots are Destroying the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Each has their own tropes that themes that come with them.
Destroying the Monster
The Destroying the Monster plot could be described with the protagonist setting out to defeat an antagonist force (normally evil), which threatens the protagonist and/or their homeland. Some reading for you to do if you want some good examples of Destroying the Monster plot would be Perseus, Beowulf, Dracula, or the War of the Worlds.
Rags to Riches
The Rags to Riches is next on our list. This plot line is more popular in Disney films. The plotline states that the poor protagonist will acquire power, wealth, and/or a mate, loses it all and gain it back, growing as a person as the result. Some examples of this plotline are Cinderella, Aladdin, and Jane Eyre.
So, let's get to the next plotline, the Quest. This one is much more common in fantasy works and is personally one of my favorites. So the basic story arc goes like this: Our MC and his/her companions set out to acquire an important object or get to a location. They normally are fighting off temptations and other obstacles towards their destination. Some popular books of the Quest storyline are the Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, and The Lightning Thief.
Voyage and Return
The fourth type of plot comes known as the Voyage and Return. This one is rather simple and is explained in the title. The MC has to go to a foreign land, and after taking out the evil that they face, they return home with more experience and knowledge, normally improving upon themselves as a person. Examples of this style of plot line fall under Alice in Wonderland, the Time Machine, and the Hobbit.
Comedies are normally portrayed with an easy-going humorous protagonist with a happy or cheery ending. It could also be something rather dramatic and the motif of the plot is to overcome adverse circumstances, which normally results in a happy ending. I believe A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare would fall under this category
Tragedies are pretty popular nowadays, normally under the subcategory of "grim-dark" (honestly, a stupid name). Everyone wants to write about how easily you can kill your characters for shock value, etc. A Tragedy goes like this: The protagonist normally has a flaw (normally a mental disorder, e.g. depression and anxiety) and this flaw is normally what destroys their life. Their demise basically is used to invoke pity because of their foolishness to what seemed to be a "good" character. Billy Shakespeare was famous for this. His three most popular works, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar, have more murder than the Red Wedding. Honestly, I just hate how that title goes to George R. R. Martin (don't get me wrong; I love Martin's work. He's a genius for creating the world that he did), but holy hell, does Billy Shakespeare get bloody. Seriously, Billy Shakespeare was gruesome, just read some of his work that I've mentioned.
The last on our list is what is called the Rebirth plot line. Essentially, a bad event forces the protagonist to change their ways, normally becoming a better person in the process. Examples, of this plot in action, could be could found in books such as The Secret Garden, The Frog Prince, and the Beauty and the Beast.
So there you have it. From the Destroying the Monster plot to the Rebirth plot, you now have a basic understanding of how these plots work in literature. You can actually start developing at this point to see where you're story might fit. However, in the next section, we're going to be looking at the genres of novels, which goes into further detail about the subcategories of the 7 basic outlines.