Free storytelling / scenario class. 4. Mixing plots

Storytelling - Introduction

PDF, 20 pages

Table of contents

Simple stories tell one unique plot

So they just have to be written and told.

The video clip for Radiohead’s song Rabbit In Your Headlights and the cartoon Road Runner are made of simple plots.

Complex stories tell several plots – from 2 to hundreds

So here the creative process is more complex.

The plots need to be written, then mixed or structured. Or one can first make a structure, then write the plots from it.
Anyway, complex stories necessarily involve several layers of composition: the structure of each plot and the overall plots structure.

  • Hamlet : a few plots
  • The Godfather : around 27 plots
  • Pulp Fiction : around 10 plots
  • The Wire : around 600 plots in 5 Seasons!
  • Friends : at least and in average 2 plots by episode – and the series counts 236 episodes along its 10 Seasons, so that is at least 500 plots.

Mixing plots

When stories are complex and made of many plots, those plots are cut into pieces and then mixed together in a general narrative architecture.

To mix plots together we have to:

  • Cut each plot into parts
  • Here we meet new problems: where to cut? what to tell, what to leave untold or implicit?
  • Rebuild a general outline with those parts, so that each line, and the whole composition, is readable and efficient

Here we meet the problem of the parts matching together or not, in terms of realism, of articulated themes, of chronology…

There are several types of multi-plot structures

According to the function of each plot with the others, also according to whether there is a causality effect from one plot to another, and to whether some characters are shared in several different plots, we may find those structures:

  • Parallel or interlaced plots
  • Factorial plots
  • Crossed plots
  • Included plots
  • Series of plots

Today, the competition is huge in all arts, so it appears preferable to write stories that are also interesting as structures. A smart structure gives an artwork a real advantage. Trust the audience: they prefer when it’s good.

The structures mentioned above are among the most used in storytelling. A writer has to know how to use them.

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