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As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The 7 Main Plots in all of Literature

So, I assume all of us have heard someone say that there are only 7 main plots in all of literature. I've certainly hear it many times. However, I always wondered what those 7 plots were. I did some research and came up with this...

The 7 main plots in all of literature:

1) [wo]man vs. nature
2) [wo]man vs. man
3) [wo]man vs. the environment
4) [wo]man vs. machines/technology
5) [wo]man vs. the supernatural
6) [wo]man vs. self
7) [wo]man vs. god/religion

In addition to the 7 main plots of literature, I also discovered articles that mention the 7 basic needs of any plot...

The 7 basic needs of any plot:

1) A hero: the person through whose eyes we see the story unfold, set
against a larger background.

2) The hero’s character flaw: a weakness or defense mechanism that
hinders the hero in such a way as to render him/her incomplete.

3) Enabling circumstances: the surroundings the hero is in at the
beginning of the story, which allow the hero to maintain his/her
character flaw.

4) An opponent: someone who opposes the hero in getting or doing what
he/she wants. Not always a villain. For example, in a romantic comedy,
the opponent could be the man or woman whom the hero seeks romance
with. The opponent is the person who instigates the life-changing

5) The hero’s ally: the person who spends the most time with the hero
and who helps the hero overcome his/her character flaw.

6) The life changing event: a challenge, threat or opportunity
usually instigated by the opponent, which forces the hero to respond
in some way that’s related to the hero’s flaw.

7) Jeopardy: the high stakes that the hero must risk to overcome
his/her flaw. These are the dramatic events that lend excitement and
challenge to the quest.

Link to further information: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=210539

I guess the question that begs to be asked is, does this actually apply to all literature? Does this apply to any story you have ever written?


As an exercise, I am going to take my novel "Unclaimed Darkness" and see if I can't identify a main plot and an example of every element from these lists:

"Unclaimed Darkness" by Aubrie Anne

Summary: When solar flares knock out Chicago's electrical grid, Talis Dodson's world falls into darkness. Chaos ensues in the streets as her and her family try to flee the city. But when her mother is murdered, her father goes missing and her brother is kidnapped, Talis is left alone and surrounded by strangers. And when a misfitted organization of thieves offers her a place to stay, she finds herself struggling to not only save her brother, but also differentiate between her enemies and her allies.

Main plot:

Woman vs. The Environment and Man

7 Basic Needs:

1) A hero: Talis Dodson

2) The hero’s character flaw: She won't allow anyone to become close to her. She's deathly stubborn, set on accomplishing her only mission: to find her brother, Jensen.

3) Enabling circumstances: She feels that everyone she is close to is taken from her. The world has literally fallen into darkness and the notrious Border Gang has kidnapped her brother.

4) An opponent: Phineas, the old man who uses children to do his thieving for him, or Valin, the leader of the Border Gang.

5) The hero’s ally: Brenner, her best friend at Phineas' warehouse. Reif, the only person who knows where her brother is.

6) The life-changing event: After arriving late at the warehouse too many times, Phineas eventually kicks Talis out, forcing to her to survive on her own once again.

7) Jeopardy: In order to get her brother back, she must drop her walls, allowing Reif to trust her and vice versa. She also must cut ties to the warehouse, no longer depending on it or its inhabitants to keep her safe.


Wow! Everything does end up fitting pretty nicely into this list of basic plots and elements. I'm curious to see you guys do the same. Tell me how your stories fit the map. This will also be a great way for me to get to know more about what you are writing, if anything.


  1. For Totem.

    Plot: Man vs. Self and the Environment

    Hero: Koin Rothschild

    Hero's character flaw: Extreme naivety.

    Enabling circumstances: Confined to an orphanage for the entirety of his childhood and most of his teenage years.

    Opponent: Koin's father, Roth, or Emperor Baldine.

    Ally: Adily Veramont, his only real friend from the orphanage.

    Life-changing event: Meeting his father, Roth.

    Jeopardy: Is forced to become more mature and responsible for the sake of his friends and destiny.

  2. Awesome. This thing seems to be working. lol. It fits in nicely with Totem

  3. I'm still uncertain as to the plot element. It could be him versus a number of things.

    Onto some typos:

    "heard someone day say that"
    Dun need "day."

    "6) The life: changing event:"
    Only "The life" is bolded and there's an additional colon where I assume you meant to put a hyphen.

    Btw, there are specific times when a title should be italicized instead of put into quotations. Novel titles are always italicized, as are most prose pieces. Poems are quoted. This would be something to look into for a future blog.

    "Chaos insues in the streets"
    Should be "ensues." Something else to look into: the difference b/w "in-" and "en-."

    "But when her mother is murdered, her father goes missing and her brother is kidnapped. Talis is left alone and surrounded by strangers."

    Should be a comma after "kidnapped" to combine the thoughts.

    "And when a misfitted organization of theives offers her a place to stay,"


    "The world has litterally fallen into darkness and the notrious Border Gang has kidnapped her brother."

    *literally, *notorious

    "the old man who uses children to do his theiving for him,"

    *thieving (I know, it defies the rules.)

  4. Okay, I'll bite :)

    Butterfly Assassin:

    Plot: Woman vs. Man and Self

    Hero: Chase McAfferty

    Char Flaw: Oh so many, Chase is guilt ridden over her sisters death, leading her into sometimes impulsive actions. She's also human which lately seems to be a character flaw in urban novels :p

    Enabling Circumstance: Chase feels like she allowed her sister to be killed, leading her into a life chasing down and murdering pedophiles who escape justice. Her tunnel vision where this is concerned leads her into both guilt and sometimes the inability to see things clearly.

    An opponent: Initially a professor who Chase believes to be a pedophile, but oh how that will change. The true opponent is a very well organized group that well....does bad things. :p

    Her Ally: Det. Steven MacKenzie. Richmond Police Detective, super sexy and a distraction for Chase as well as the only person she remotely trusts.

    Life Changing Event: The bad guy isn't a true pedophile at all, but an organized group that preys on a certain adult demographic to sweep in and steal their teen children.

    Jeopardy: Well, in order to save the day, Chase is 1. going to have to trust someone else completely, a concept unknown to her, 2. finally reveal what she really is to Stevie, thus risking the only "relationship" she's ever had and 3. face a situation that almost exactly mirrors the day her sister was murdered.

    There, I've given away a bit more here than I have anywhere else, but in an obscenely vague way.

    This was cool, thanks for the prompt to do this!

  5. No problem. I thought it would be a neat idea for us to hear a little more about each other's work and an excellent way for some of us to get our heads straight when it comes to our novel (i.e. ME). It's a great way to organize your thoughts.

  6. Thanks for compiling this list of plot "must-haves"! I will be using it to re-evaluate my book.

    I will also be using it to figure out the plot of my life. I'm looking through my FaceBook figuring out the villain upon whom I need to lay a proper smack-down.

  7. What an excellent use of this post. Our lives should somehow fit into the necessary plot elements. I will have to try that later today and see what I come up with. Maybe I will even share it with you guys. Then, not only could we get to know each other's stories, but a little more about everyone's drama. Love it!


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