All the good ones are taken

And what’s worse, the most popular and compelling ones have been matched up numerous times with others who are more glamorous and successful, so what hope is there for me?

I’m referring to fiction plots, naturally.  You’ve probably heard the argument that only seven plots can describe the entire spectrum of fiction/storytelling–unless it’s three or twenty or thirty-six plots, depending upon your source.  Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories theorizes that these scenarios can account for the entire world of stories throughout the centuries:

  1. Overcoming the monster

  2. Rags to riches

  3. The guest

  4. Voyage and return

  5. Comedy

  6. Tragedy

  7. Rebirth

    Of course, once you undertake to categorize the tales humans tell, you’re also obliged to justify why we need to invent them in the first place, not to mention explaining how these archetypes have evolved in conjunction with their historical contexts.  And Booker does all of that.  At least, that’s what the critics have said.  I personally don’t have time to peruse Seven Basic Plots or indeed anything else this month.

    No, I’ll return the Booker volume to the shelf so that you may enjoy it.  I will nobly forge ahead with my resolve to finish that 50,000-word novel by November 30.  I have miraculously stayed on pace and so have reached 24,154 words. 

    What has delighted me in this second week of the National Novel Writing Month challenge is how much I enjoy writing dialogue.  I’m not a big talker.  Terrible in social situations that call for mingling and chatting, I can somehow produce characters who converse incidentally and fearlessly about all manner of things on cue.    The lesson here is that I should have been born fictional.

    The other lesson is that plotting is every bit as daunting as you’d imagine.  Latching on to some first-try advice from experienced novelists, I decided to (a) borrow from a proven structure and (b) exploit settings/ situations in which I am well versed. Thus, you won’t be shocked to learn that a library is featured on more than a few pages.

    The plot so far features elements inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl, and the Jim Carrey movie The Mask.  And if you think that mashup sounds unlikely, I may as well mention that one of the characters is not a person but a thing—an antique item. 

    When I’m recruiting minor characters, I recall my good fortune to have grown up in a small town:  lots of wonderful Characters (capital “C” intentional) there, in a good way.  Still, I endeavor to merely use them as starting points to extrapolate other wonderful beings.  And don’t worry: the names have been changed to protect the interesting.

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