I wasn’t going to post this until next Wednesday, but then I realized I will be gone all next week. My kids have spring break and we are headed to Grandma’s house :) So you get two days of crafting advice.
Like I said yesterday, Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat is awesome. He talks about the 10 different story types. Every type has rules that if you follow them will make your story stronger.
If you missed yesterday here’s the link to the first 5 story types: What is mytype—Part 1.
1. Wish Fulfillment Story: Somehow the MC makes a wish that changes everything. It doesn’t matter if the wish comes from a genie, wishing well, love potion, or magic beans. The wish must somehow change the wisher.
The Purpose: This is so simple—your MC must be someone we want to root for. Who wants to see a billionaire get another million dollars? But human nature being what it is, we don’t want to see someone have it too easy :) Ultimately the MC must learn that magic isn’t everything. It is better to be normal—like the reader—and grateful for what you have.
Examples: Freaky Friday, My Unfair Godmother (side note—I had a hard time finding good examples of this story type, so if you have a great wish fulfillment story—the field is wide open)
2. Coming of Age Story: This type of story is as old as time. We love it because every one of us has gone through it and can relate.
The Purpose: To say these stories are about change is terribly obvious. They are about the pain, growth, and torment of LIFE. But usually the catalyst of the story is an outside source. Only going through the experience can offer the solution.
Examples: Catcher in the Rye, Paper Towns, Are You There God? It’s Me Margret
3. The Love Story: This is of course the obvious romantic “love story” but stories about two friends also fall into this category. Ultimately this story type is about relationships.
The Purpose: At first the two MC’s hate each other (or have some other kind of conflict), but as they go along they realize how much they need each other, but that just leads to more conflict. Then we have the inevitable “all is lost” moment (a personal favorite). But the final resolution comes in the moment when both characters surrender a little of themselves for the other. In my opinion sacrifice is true love!
Examples: The Kite Runner, Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte’s Web
4. Regular Guy Huge Problem: I love this kind of story because it is so relatable. Who doesn’t feel like their life is one ongoing huge problem?
The Purpose: Take one regular guy (or gal) give them a GIGANTIC problem and shake HARD! The worse the problem is the more potential for heroics. The real key to this story is that your MC must overcome his/her problem because of a talent or ingenuity that ONLY they have! Why is your MC uniquely perfect to solve this problem?
Examples: The Maze Runner, Night, Harry Potter (we can debate my choice to classify Harry here, but I think of all the story types this one fits the best. I know Harry is not a regular guy, but he thinks of himself as average. And we all have to admit that Voldemort is a HUGE problem!)
5. Monster in the House: I borrowed Snyder’s title (I couldn’t think of a better one :) This is also a very primal story type, “Something is trying to kill me, and I must get away!” The monster can be lots of things: zombies, monsters, animals, crazed killers, toxic viruses.
The Purpose: According to Snyder the rules of this story type are VERY strict. You break the rules the story will fail. Rule 1) The must be some kind of “house” or contained place: an island, a house, a spaceship—a place characters cannot easily escape. If you break this rule it will undermine your tension. Rule 2) A sin is committed (usually some form of greed) that creates this monster bent on punishing its creators and sparing those who recognize the sin. Rule 3) The rest is run for your life!
Examples: Jurassic Park, I’m Not a Serial Killer, Cujo
Here are all 10: Monster in the House, Regular Guy Huge Problem, The Love Story, Coming of Age, Wish Fulfillment, Superhero, Underdog, Mystery, Family Saga, and the Quest.
I had tons of people say that their stories are multiple story types. I just wanted to say—Your main plot is really only one type, but then you can have subplots that use the other types.
One reason you need to focus on one type is that different stories have different motivations. A quest story is about learning something about yourself through a journey. A love story is about sacrificing a little of your ego for love. Wish fulfillment is about learning to be grateful for what you have. If you try and mix too much you get split motivations.
I hope this was helpful :) I love this kind of stuff. Story structure fascinates me. So now that you have all ten—what type of story are you writing? Remember only pick one!