Plot Line

The series of events in a story is the plot line. What’s in store for your characters?

Basic Plot Line

Basically, a story has these four things in it:

  1. Character in “normal” activity.  The normal is referring to “normal” or “routine” for their time, place, and situation.
  2. Character encounters a change or challenge, which doesn’t necessarily have to be bad at first.
  3. Character must struggle with the change. If there’s no struggle, it ain’t much of a story.
  4. Character wins or loses and a lesson is learned as a result. Without some lesson to reflect on, the story is pointless. Winning and losing can occur in many different degrees and manifestations.

This is the cre8opedia Normal-Change-Struggle-Result plot pattern and if you keep this simple notion in mind, you’ll do well with your narrative plots, whatever they are. That’s it and don’t let the academics and intellectuals tell you it’s more complicated than that… unless you’re in their college class and they are marking you, then you best play their games and use their vocab 🙂

Now for some really fun plot lines…

Each of the following present starting points, central conflicts, and opposed possible resolutions with implied thematic elements. They are very general so as to fit into infinite genre-character-setting structures. You will see the cre8opedia Normal-Change-Struggle-Result pattern nestled comfortably in each.

These can be applied to novels, short stories, ballad poems, screenplays, roleplaying campaigns, storytelling circles, song lyrics, and so on. They could be used as assignment structures for writing workshops or class writing assignments.

Please contribute your own simple plot structures through the comment stream at the bottom of the page to help out your fellow cre8opedia visitors. Enjoy!

  • character has something; loses it; has to reclaim it… finds it or it’s eternally lost?
  • character has someone; loses them; must regain them… succeeds or fails?
  • two characters are challenged and both need to win for some desperate cause… who succeeds or do neither?
  • all is well; disaster strikes; must save the world… saved or lost?
  • true love; betrayal; try to be honorable, to reconcile, to exact revenge… to utter ruin or reconciliation?
  • all is well; foretelling of greatness; pursuit of greatness… achievement of greatness or great tragedy?
  • all is well; receive bad news; try to reconcile… success or utter ruin?
  • life presents opportunity; character weighs options and consequences… good opportunity lost or caution proved the correct choice?
  • character under oppression; opportunity presents itself… liberation or destruction (or liberation for others through personal sacrifice)?
  • discover a clue; hesitate; investigate; doubt; face tragedy; pursue clue… more tragedy or great awakening?
  • disaster compels exploration; one glimmer of hope presents itself; struggle through trials and tribulation… success or ultimate doom?
  • all is well; life suddenly gets better through tremendous opportunity seized; better life has a cost that starts to take its toll… get out or trapped and destroyed?
  • life is a struggle; opportunity presents itself but a sacrifice must be made; pursuit of success and doubt about choices battle inside character… ultimate reconciliation or decay into despair?
  • birth of a child; raising the child presents challenges; chaos ensues… love wins or resentment?
  • all is well; darkness arrives; battle of good and evil (or harmony and chaos, etc.)… triumph or despair?
  • all is well; cheated or tricked; plot return to former success… works or backfires? (revenge isn’t always sweet)
  • all is well; murdered (or so it is thought); return for revenge… dark truths realized or liberation?
  • all is well; sudden invasion or social upheaval or revolution; must pick sides and wage war… win or lose? or right or wrong choice of sides?
  • all is well; infection, possession, parasitic invasion; struggle with changing personality, disposition, activity (call the exorcist!)… who (or what) triumphs and at what cost?

Building in Subplots

Okay, so you have your main plot… but you can weave in other elements that each have their own plot line (call these subplots). These are things like love affairs, inner demons, relationship conflicts, small battles, victories or defeats, and so on.

Each subplot — just like the main plot — must have it’s own four steps of “Normal-Change-Struggle-Result.” The more of these strands you create and dangle throughout your story, the more you have to tie up at some point or other.

The benefit of subplots is that they deepen the immersion of your audience, thicken the development of your character, and complicate the flow of the main plot.

The challenge of subplots is… well… pretty much exactly the same as the benefits. You just have to keep track of it all or you’ll disappoint your audience, overburden your characters, and make your main plot confusing. Proceed at your own risk 🙂

Without further ado… some subplots for y’all…

  • character has an addiction, vice, compulsion, 
  • character has an obsession, neurosis, paranoia, suspicion, 
  • has to look after a dependent, child, infant, pet, elderly parent, disabled partner, ill partner, 
  • someone is injured, dying, in palliative care, wounded, 
  • character is injured, wounded,
  • something is lost that is desperately needed (related to the main plot), misplace, dropped, stolen, pawned, 
  • murder of a witness, 
  • abduction, kidnapping, 
  • hidden weakness discovered, exploited, 
  • secondary challenge, duel, dare, game, sport,
  • inner demon, backstory, history, memory, regret,
  • must move up social ladder to achieve something in the main plot,
  • temptation, lust, torrid love affair, fling, one-night stand, imposing relationship,
  • tit-for-tat, extortion, blackmail,
  • getting investigated, legally pursued, accused, sued, dragged to a court,
  • fever, fever dream, vision, nightmare, spirit quest, ethereal or astral or other dimensional experience, out-of-body travel, death-and-back revenant experience,
  • vilified, excommunicated, banished,
  • must consult an expert, find a leader, seek advice from a master,
  • study required, need to train, research, learn, rehearse, plan, practice,
  • possession, host-parasite imposition, infection,
  • mutation, deformation, disfigurement,
  • social upheaval, political change, shift in economic environment, societal (a)moral imposition (ie. Nazi party), revolution,

Literary Plot Line

Just to show you that we’re aware of the existence of this stuff, here it is, but we’re not spending any time on it as there are so many sources and sites that already deal with the “literary” stuff of academia…

  1. Exposition
  2. Initial Incident
  3. Rising Action
  4. Climax
  5. Falling Action
  6. Resolution; Denouement.


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