story vs plot

Beginning Theory: Peter Barry. Narratology

Basic components:

Story vs Plot. Story = actual sequence of events. Plot = (‘discourse’) those events as they are ordered, presented and packaged. Including style, viewpoint, pace etc.

  • Aristotle’s categories (Theme)
  • Propp’s system (Plots) 
  • Genette on how the story is told (narration)
  • Barthes’ five codes (the reader experience)

Narratology is about looking at a number of different stories and looking for elements in common.


  • hamartia = character fault
  • anagnorisis = recognition. The truth of the situation is recognised by the protagonist
  • peripeteia = reversal of fortune

Can be multiple instances of all of these within one story. These categories are about 'deep content’. The inner events (recognition and consequences) and moral impact.

Vladimir Propp (1895-1970): Morphology of the Folktale (1928)

Propp examined 100s of Russian folktales and derived 31 'functions’ = possible actions. Any folktale will consist of a series of these functions. The functions always occur in the order listed. (eg the villain cannot be punished until the hero defeats him.)

The approach is more superficial than Aristotle as it is looking at surface events. 

Propp Character types - the functions group into ’spheres of action’. roles rather than characters. (This relates back to Aristotle who says that character is expressed in action.)

  • The villain
  • The donor (provider)
  • The helper
  • The princess (sought after person) and her father
  • The dispatcher
  • The hero (seeker or victim)
  • The false hero

These elements can generate all of Russian folklore. 

Robert Scholes points out the versatility that one character can play any of thes roles in a given tale and one role may employ several characters.

Realist fiction – character more important than action. But Propp’s archetypes can be seen as underlying these. eg Cinderella archetype can be seen as behind novel like Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre.

Gerard Genette. Narrative Discourse (1972)

Not about the content, but how it is presented.

1. Is the basic narrative mode 'memetic’ or 'diegetic’?

Mimetic = dramatised. We 'see’ the events.

Diegetic = reported. Summarised.

Almost all prose mixes the two. Esc longer works.

2. How is the narrative focalised?

external = outside the characters. What they say and do.

internal = how they think and feel.

If there is a main POV character she is the focaliser/ reflector.

zero = internal focus on multiple characters. (Omniscient narrator)

3. Who is telling the story?

Authorial persona. Also called 'covert’, 'effaced’, non-intrusive’, 'non-dramatised’.

Named characters. Also called 'overt’, 'dramatised’, 'intrusive’.

These have subtypes:

  • 'heterodiegetic’. (’other telling’) An outsider to the story being narrated. 
  • 'homodiegetic’. (’same telling’) A character in the story being told. eg Jane Eyre.

Omniscient narrators are 'heterodiegetic’.

4. How is time handled in the story?

analeptic = ('back-take’). eg flashback

prolepsis = ('fore-take’). eg flash forward. Also show in foreshadowing. eg spilt wine is proleptic of split blood later.

5. How is the story 'packaged’?

Frame narratives ('primary narratives’) contain within them embedded narratives ('secondary narratives’ or in Genette’s terms ’meta-narratives’). The primary narrative is just the one that comes first. Not usually the main narrative.

Frame narratives are also single-ended or double-ended. If single-ended the frame situation is not returned to at the end of the story.

Frames can be 'intrusive’. The embedded tale can be interrupted by the frame situation.

6. How are speech and thought represented?

Genette’s terms are generalised to three layers:

  • Mimetic - “I have to go,” I said.
  • Transposed - I told her I had to go
  • Narrated - I informed her it was necessary for me to leave.

Barry explains thus:

direct and tagged - “What’s your name?” Joe asked.

direct and untagged - “What’s your name?”

direct and selectively tagged - “What’s you name?” asked Joe. “Thelma.”

tagged indirect - He asked her what her name was and she told him it was Thelma.

free indirect speech - What was her name? It was Thelma.

(The last is good for 'stream of consciousness’ type stuff.)


  • Look at individual narratives to pick out structures recurrent to all narratives.
  • Focus on the teller and the telling rather than comtent.
  • Use structures derived from sort narratives and apply to longer forms.
  • Foreground action and structure rather than character and motive
  • Foreground affinities between narratives rather than look for afew unique highly regarded examples.

Some practical points

What is the frame for? Resonance? Wider applicability? Delaying tactic?

'Narrativised’ - we don’t actually 'see’ what is happening. Vs 'full mimesis’ we 'see’ what happens. Mid-points of 'slightly narratised’ or 'partial mimesis’. eg 'making forcible entrance’

    Story vs. Plot

    Story is not the same as plot and vice versa. So claims Steve Alcorn in the writing e-course I am taking from my local library (Obvious Alert: libraries are awesome). 

    Alcorn breaks it down like this: 

    “Story is emotional: when your character feels sad, that’s part of the story. 

    Plot is physical: when your character cries, that’s part of the plot." 

    Put another way: 

    "Story: the emotional journey of the protagonist.

    Plot: the physical journey the protagonist makes.”

    He gives an example of an idea broken into story (purely the emotions: a man feels guilty, takes to drink, finds resolution) and then plot (the action: man hurts someone, quits job, gets in fight). He weaves them together to create a more powerful synopsis. (A cop shoots an innocent bystander and quits his job out of guilt. He takes to drink and takes up investigative work to pay the bills. In the midst, he is forced to fight for his life and realizes how much of it he’s wasted in a bottle.) 

    Using this distinction can point out flaws: when I broke apart my current WIP like this, I discovered I lacked story (especially the oh-so-important resolution part of the story). It also makes it easier to pick interesting plot points without feeling like I’m selling out the content. When the story is the backbone, it gives flexibility to shirk expectations and take the plot in unexpected directions. The story is the same after all, even if the events have changed. 

    This is also a great way to frame pacing. Alcorn says: 

    “Plot is action, so if things are dragging, simply add more of it. But if things are moving too fast, add more story to slow them down. They work together to keep your long form on pace.”

    Every work of fiction needs both. Story clarifies plot, adds relevance to action while action adds context to emotion and reaction. Both are important and can never totally be separated.But the contrast works for me as a writer. What about you?


        hey ho !! i’m maddie and this is effy / lizzie / elizabeth / birdy / betty ( like there is so many i just don’t know, so pick your favourite and roll with it because she likes em all !! ), but before i get into her details, let’s talk about the trash that is me !! hi !! i’m twenty two so all legal over here, but i am trash, from australia so my times will be a little screwy but yeah, i have no triggers but i promise to tag everything as best i can, if there is a certain way you have a blacklist up i can tag it that way, if not everything will be tagged like; tw trigger, trigger tw, cw trigger and trigger cw !! if there is any issues lmk but alas on to isobel !! ( literally just recycled this lol bye. )

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    Why do you rip into Arthur so often and so harshly compared to everyone else?

    I know I talk about Arthur a lot. A LOT. And some of it is pretty damn harsh, mostly because of my frustration with his back and forth development stasis. And yeah, I can and do talk about Merlin and Morgana and Gwen a lot, too, but Arthur gets the brunt of it for a few reasons.

    1. The whole show is about him. It’s called “Merlin,” yeah, but…everything Merlin does is “for him.” Not for himself, not for Gwen or Morgana. Arthur. So even when it’s not about Arthur, it’s still kinda about Arthur. Even in the prophecy about him and Merlin, “the Once and Future King” is given priority. Merlin’s just there to make him king, and Morgana and Gwen’s entire existences revolve around Arthur after a certain point. Gwen’s reduced to her romance with Arthur while Morgana is reduced to her hatred for Arthur.

    2. The whole point of the prophecy and the show itself is literally Arthur’s character development. Specifically his character development. Even more specifically, how he’s going to become a great king, when he’ll be ready to rule, what makes him so wonderfully amazing that there are prophecies about him, what he thinks about magic, when/if he’s going to accept magic, how that bully in ep1 could possibly become the wise and just Once and Future King.

    It’s a damn vital part of the show, and it doesn’t happen.

    He changes a couple of Camelot’s laws/traditions, like allowing peasant knights and easing up on Druids and not being a paranoid execution-happy dick like his father, but he hasn’t changed significantly since the first episode, and I’m not okay with that.

    3. I’m especially not okay with people thinking what he accomplished in canon was “good enough” or worthy of his prophetic status, because throughout it all, nothing changed for magic users. That’s ~just one thing~ or whatever, but it’s also the Big Thing that multiple episodes were dedicated to exploring and pushing at, but nothing ever came of it. Not legally, not in public opinion, regardless of whatever slight pardon Arthur might have given the Druids.

    The Arthur we saw in glimpses throughout the series, in the most powerful scenes in the show, who showed real compassion and open-mindedness and wisdom–that’s the Arthur I believe could have brought magic back to Camelot in peace, could have figured out on his own that Merlin’s secrets were darker than he might have imagined when he still didn’t quite see servants of people worthy of respect or consideration, could have confronted his insecurities and the shadow cast by his father for good, could have faced his privilege as a wealthy, sheltered noble and seen through the eyes of his people.

    I’m not okay with so many people accepting, worshiping, and defending canon Arthur when their tactics often involve trying to shift the focus and the blame to other characters to avoid talking about any of Arthur’s real flaws instead of just the funny/quirky/acceptable ones. 

    His insecurities, his brashness, his outward display of arrogance, his awkwardness, his inability to display/communicate emotion clearly, his easily-trusting nature: “acceptable.” 

    His privilege of wealth and status, his constant physical and emotional abuse of Merlin, his complicity in his father’s cruelty, his extreme prejudice against a persecuted minority group, his hypocrisy: “WELL MORGANA’S A BITCH SO THEY ALL DESERVED IT

    I just really wish that worship/defense would go to the Arthur who deserves it, the Arthur who could have been, instead of his shady-ass canon shadow.

    4. I’m really really passionate about Arthur as a character??? He deserved so much more development, oh my god. WHAT A GREAT SETUP. WHAT A GREAT MESS OF FLAWS AND MISTAKES. what an amazing person we see when he CONFRONTS his flaws and mistakes and strives for change holy shit

    He’s complicated and conflicted in a million ways, and the writers dumbed him down because they literally never wanted anything to change. 

    Every time he reached that point in the series, the point where he was right at the edge of making a real difference…..They hit the reset button and dragged him back to Square One: Magic Is Inherently Evil. 

    Arthur is change. Courage. The person who isn’t afraid to step forward and fight for their beliefs—or the person who is afraid, but fights all the same. Because turning away from people he has the power to help would be unthinkable.

    He cannot think of his pride while people are suffering.

    theasexualscorpio  asked:

    How do you resolve a 'person vs. society' plot?

    I guess it depends on what you’re trying to say? A person vs society plot usually has something quite strong and specific to say about society and a lot of that message comes from how the conflict is resolved. 

    On one hand, you could have an ending where the society wins. The MC has fought long and hard to escape conformity/tyranny/oppression etc. but in the end it’s too little too late and he’s just one person. The society eats him alive or pulls him into it. All is lost. This is totally an acceptable way to end a story. It’s sad and dreary but it says so much and most importantly it has closure. We can learn that problems in society can’t be left to the side forever because eventually it will be too late. Or that a single person can’t make the change. Or whatever else you’re trying to say. 

    You could also have one where the character beats the society and all is well (or at least on its way to being well). This can have a very similar message as the other just in the opposite sense. If everyone can band together anything is possible. It’s not too late (yet) to make change. If you can rise above what society has told you to be you can be whatever you want to be. It’s a more positive way to end and shows the reader what good can come out of standing your ground whereas the other end shows what bad things can happen if we let things slide. 

    Obviously there are other ways to end that are between those two sides. Maybe society itself doesn’t get beaten but the character can accept it. Or the character wins and society changes but it seems like it might just have gotten worse. The first step is to decide what you want you’re ending to mean and then decide how you want to show it.

    Story Elements: Good vs Bad Plot Twists

    Anonymous asked:

    What separates a good plot twist from a badly done one? 

    Good Plot Twists:

    • exceed reader’s expectations
    • are unexpected but believable and not random
      - groundwork is laid through buried clues and subtle foreshadowing
    • fresh and unique
    • achieved without deceiving the reader
    • move the story forward
    • create new possibilities in the story
    • are organic to the plot

    Bad Plot Twists:

    • are obvious and predictable
    • random and implausible
    • cliché
    • achieved through tricking or deceiving the reader
    • have no impact on the story
    • feel forced and inorganic
    • so bad they distract from the plot

    anonymous asked:

    Hello! I couldn't find a question like this, but I apologize if I missed it. Anyway, is it possible to have too many elements in one story? I have 9 books planned, so I obviously need a lot 'happening' but I'm worried I have too many themes going on. Thanks!!

    How to tell if you have “too much” going on in your story:

    • Subplots vs Main Plot: Look at your subplots. Look at your main plot. If your subplots take up more space than your main plot or if they’re more important, you’ve got too much going on.
    • Too Many Characters: If you have trouble remembering all of your main characters and all of the important details surrounding them, you need to downsize. The exception is if you’re still planning/brainstorming/plotting/writing the first draft. Too many characters can carry too many plots along with them.
    • Constant Conflict: If every single part of your story is full of conflict and if your character is constantly going from one problem to another with no down time, you have too much going on. Your pacing shouldn’t stay at a constant.
    • What’s Going On?: The best way to tell if you have too much going on in your story is if you, and especially your readers, can’t keep track of what’s going on because there’s just so much packed into one story. Your readers shouldn’t have to consult one of the previous books to remember a detail that is necessary to understanding the rest of the story. Your readers should be able to identify the main conflict.

    If you’re having trouble deciding if there’s too much, get a beta reader. If you’re having trouble writing all of it in a coherent way, cut it down. 

    Of course whether your story is too complex or not also depends on how well you’re able to write it. Some writers can write several different plots and POVs without over packing their story or confusing their readers. Others cannot. Find your comfort level and don’t over complicate your writing.


    Not only an analysis of story vs. plot, La Haine is an example of a film whose structure is so intricately constructed, that piecing it together reveals an incredibly textured piece of art.


    As some of you may already know, my mother is an English teacher in primary (elementary/grade) school. Over the years many of her students have been fans of Sailor Moon and they have consistently been excellent little champions. Recently they were given a writing assignment with the theme of “space”, and two of them of course decided to write about our beloved Meatball Head. I’ve transcribed them (verbatim) below, because they are precious, and amazingly on-point.

    Story 1: “Sailor Space” (I have transcribed the original story, not the changes made by the girl’s teacher [not my mother].)

    One wonderful evening a hero was chosen throgh out the galaxy. She was born on a planet called planet of light. Her parents named their daughter Serena. Five years later a war came to their planet the army of the Phantom came to attack. Planet of Light’s army and Serena’s father King Radiance defened their Kingdom with all there might unfortunately King Radiance died in battle, but Planet of Light won Phantom was furious. He shouted saying, “Some day I will get revengence!” Phantom’s army disapeared in an instent. Princess Serena was scared.

    Queen luna was sad that King Radiance has past on. The Kingdom’s guards helped the queen and princess help rebuild the planet that they once loved. Ten years past and they finally finished rebuilding the planet. The kingdom celebrated by having a ball in the Kingdom. One of the strongest Knights arrived at the ball. His name was Dareyn. Dareyn asked princess Serena for a dance, Serena was so happy that they danced all night.

    While they were dancing the phantoms 15 year old son prince Dimond was strong enough to destroy anything except friendship or love. Back at the Kingdom the queen anounced the new royal gaurds to protect the princess Serena they call them selvs Sailor Space warriers! They are protecters of each planet through out space, Sailor mars, Sailor mercury, Sailor Jupiter and Sailor venus: The next day Dareyn felt worried from too much power coming towards the planet! So Dareyn warened the Queen Luna and she was shocked! She told the sailor space warriers, “we’re in battle!” The Sailor warriers are getting ready for battle, an hour has past, the Kingdom felt rumbling under neath them when they [look] up they saw a ship that belonged to Phantom.

    When prince Dimond walked out of the ship everybody gasped because they had no idea of him. Prince dimond set a bomb in the Kingdom; Queen luna heard beeping from the royal basement. She warned Dareyn. Dareyn transformed into tasido mask! The Sailor warriers found the bomb and throwed it down to Earth. Serena warnder the Sailor warriers “there are living creatures [on] that planet!” The five of them ran to the queen [and] told her what happened. The queen gasped and She told them to save Earth but the queen wanted to talk to Serena before she saves Earth “Your father did not want me to tell you but in the palm of my hand is a seed that would give you power of the [moon] he did not want you to know because you weren’t old [enough] but now you are old enough to use this power”

    Serena ate the seed and she turned into Sailor [moon!] The Space Warriers told Serena that She could [be] a Space Warrier Serena said “Yes” she was happy! So they went into Space they found the [forbidden] planet, planet of darkness. Tasido mask poped out of nowhere he told them “Don’t go near that plent or you would be sucked into the madness” the [warriors] gasped and flew towards Earth. While they flew they told secrets


    Martin Scorsese on Story vs. Plot

    anonymous asked:

    I'm between events right now, and I have no idea how to fill it up... please help!

    You might find this post helpful to start with. Let’s see what else we can do.

    • SubplotsSpend some time on an arc that’s happening outside of your main plot—a friendship or romance arc, a parallel conflict, resolving an earlier minor conflict or argument. Using subplots to interrupt the course of the story can save the main plot from feeling flat or droning.
    • Take a breather. Give your characters space to work on something mostly/completely unrelated to the events of the plot. Maybe it’s a school story and it’s time to head to class and pass notes. Or maybe it’s an adventure story and the characters are spending the day patching up from the last big fight. 
    • Plot vs. Story. Plot is what happens, plot is events. Story is how your character react to the plot. Take a bit of time and work on the story—how are your characters holding up? How are they developing, what are they feeling and thinking? Check in with them and give your readers some insight into their journey.
    • Just keep going. Worry about whipping it into shape later. For now, just get it all out. Don’t let this stop you, whatever you do!