Friday, May 3, 2013

10 Story Models that Will Change the Way You Brainstorm

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

On Tuesday, I mentioned Blake Snyder's book Save the Cat.  I adore this book. The man speaks my language. And he gives me plenty of examples to follow. This is a book about writing screenplays, not fiction. But I think there is much to be learned from screenplay writers about telling an engaging story. 

Chapter two is called "Give Me the Same Thing . . . Only Different!" and it talks about how selling a movie idea is all about putting a fresh spin on a universal story line. Snyder explains that he and a friend talked about it and realized that there were really only ten basic movie types out there. Whether or not you agree with him, the concept is intriguing. In his book he suggests that if you can figure out which type of story you have, you'll be well on your way to figuring out what the plot structure might look like.


Here are the ten story models from Blake Snyder's Save the Cat:

1. Monster in the House: This is your basic horror flick. The monster is not always a monster, but this story type always includes a monster-type character(s) and a house or a location in which they are trapped. Some examples are: Jaws, The Host, The Ring, and Jurassic Park.

2.Golden Fleece: Here is your basic quest story in which your hero goes on the road in search of something but often discovers who he is along the way. Examples are: The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, Back to the Future, and National Treasure.

3. Out of the Bottle: This is a fish-our-of-water story that often involves someone getting their greatest wish. Ex: Freaky Friday, Bruce Almighty, Ella Enchanted, and Big.

4. Dude with a Problem: An ordinary guy (or guys) finds himself in extraordinary circumstances and must step up and save the day. This story can be action: Die Hard, The Fugitive, Speed, or The Bourne Identity; it could be a scary story like: Misery, Sleeping with the Enemy, or Cape Fear; or a global problem like: Deep Impact, Outbreak, or The Day After Tomorrow.

5. Rites of Passage: Here are your coming-or-age stories, your mid-life crises, and various other life-changing problems. For example: Napoleon Dynamite, Sixteen Candles, When a Man Loves a Woman, and Kramer vs. Kramer.

6. Buddy Love: Believe it or not, this is where your romance stories fall, as well as your cop partner movies, and those stories about a boy and his dog. Pet love: The Yearling, Air Bud, Black Beauty. Professional love: Lethal Weapon, Dumb & DummerRush Hour, Wayne's World. Romantic comedy: Sleepless in Seattle, Titanic, Gone with the Wind, The Notebook. Forbidden love: Twilight, Romeo & Juliet, Dirty Dancing, Beauty and the Beast.

7. Whydunit: This is your mystery plot that takes the audience through a story of discovery. These could be detective stories, science fiction, or stories of secrets in a person's life. Ex: JFK, The Sixth Sense, Minority Report, Fargo, Kiss the Girls.

8. The Fool Triumphant: Here you have a story of the dumb guy who succeeds. He doesn't have to be dumb, either. But he is in regard to his new-found situation like in the movie Dave. Here are some other examples: King Ralph, The Princess Diaries, Mrs. Doubtfire, She's the Man, Forrest Gump, Legally Blonde, and Elf.

9. Institutionalized: These are stories about a group of people with a common cause. Ex: Top Gun, A Few Good Men, The Godfather, Office Space, Training Day, Mona Lisa Smile, The Devil Wears Prada, Dead Poet's Society.

10. Superhero: An extraordinary person finds himself in an ordinary world: how does he cope/deal with the story problem? Ex: Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, Peter Pan, the Harry Potter movies, The Matrix, Eragon, Gladiator, The Three Musketeers, The Incredibles, X-men.

So, what do you think? Can you pinpoint which story model your story might fall into? I like this book so much, I'm going to buy a copy for one lucky winner. Enter on the Rafflecopter form below.  International entries are welcome!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

90 comments:

  1. Well, let's see if I can do something with this information...;-)
    My story would fall into number 2 and maybe a bit of number 3 and 4. O man, it's hard to pinpoint that!

    Uh, the contest is for US people only, I guess?

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  2. Hmm...mine seems to fall into both Golden Fleece and Dude With A Problem. :)

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  3. I'm guessing mine is just Rites of Passage. Because while it would be "Dude With a Problem," there's not exactly any extraordinary circumstances...:)

    It's always interesting to figure out why your story is cliche and why it isn't. xD

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  4. I think mine is "Rites of Passage", which is a real shame because "Dude with a Problem" is such a cool way to sum up an entire novel. ;) Kidding.

    I entered the rafflecopter, but not sure if it's USA only or not. If it is, just ignore me! :P

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    1. Yes, international is okay. I forgot to say that. I LOVE THE BOOK DEPOSITORY!

      Ha ha. I know, right? I love his titles for things.

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    2. YES. Book Depository is my new best friend. Plus they have awesome prices. Discounts. Aaaah. Love.

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  5. My current story would probably fall under the Superhero category and the Dude with a Problem category... more the superhero category, though. :) This was a great post!

    -Abby

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  6. I think mine is Dude with a Problem, which is kind if funny because its sequel is definitely under the Golden Fleece category. Anyway, this post was so cool!

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  7. My current story falls into . . . let's see. Buddy Love, and some Dude With A Problem and Golden Fleece in there as well. A bit of the Superhero category too, but more Dude With a Problem.

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  8. I think mine would be a Rite of Passage/Golden Fleece kind of story. Eric is growing up through falling in love and struggling with assurance and he is still on his quest for truth that he started in my first book Legend of Honesty

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    1. He does say that sometimes stories are a combo of two, but that the tend to lean more toward one.

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  9. Mine is definitely Golden Fleece, with some Whydunit and Dude With a Problem mixed in. :D Thanks for this post, Jill!

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  10. Mine is Dude With A Problem with some Whydunit. This post is going to help me a lot. Thanks! (Side note: I love Napolean Dynamite. It's the movie you turn to when there's nothing to talk about. And then there's the quotes...)

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    1. Ha ha. I haven't seen it in a while. Might have to watch it again.

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  11. Mine is maybe a mix of Golden Fleece and The Fool Triumphant. It's kind of hard to pick just one story models, since I have two main characters doing completely different things. :-)

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  12. Mine is definitely number 8 -- which is also my lucky number! Must be fate ;)

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  13. Mine would be Gal with a Problem. :)

    With Superhero, Whydunit and rights of passage as subplots.

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  14. I'm having a bit of trouble pinpointing mine. I think it could be a mixture of Superhero, the Fool Triumphant, and Whydunit. *Shrug* ;)

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  15. I think mine is 4. Dude with a Problem. But it's also 5. Rite of Passage for the two secondary characters.

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  16. Mine falls under Golden Fleece with a little bit of Superhero mixed in. :)

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  17. Mine would fall under number 5 - Rite of Passage, but there's also number 4 in there, Dude with a Problem as a subplot! This post certainly gave me something to think about, and thanks Jill!

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  18. Mine is a Rite of passage. Institutionalized comes in there as well.

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  19. Mine's Number 10 - Superhero :) But Buddy Love is in there too.

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  20. Mine would be Golden Fleece with a little Dude with a problem. Huh, I never really though of my story like that. I may narrow it more into that... Thanks!

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  21. Mine is dude with a problem. Which is a WONDERFUL way to sum up hundreds of novels. :)

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  22. Definitely dude with a problem. Fun times.

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  23. International entries are welcome, guys! Sorry I forgot to say that. I added it though. The Book Depository makes international prizes easy!

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  24. This seems quite hard to pinpoint actually, but it seems like an interesting read. I think mine would be Golden Fleece with a bit of buddy love ;)

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  25. My story best falls into 9. Institutionalized. Looks like I'm the first. I hope that doesn't mean my story model is unpopular. :/
    My library has a huge wait list for this book but I hear good things. Thanks so much for this giveaway and sharing the story models. Very helpful and interesting!

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  26. Rachel KaspersonMay 3, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    My story mainly falls into the Golden Fleece category ... But I think it also touches on a lot of others.

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  27. Mine is Golden Fleece with a bit of Institutionalized and Buddy Love. It seems crazy that there are only ten universal storylines, but I can't really think of an exception! Thanks for the post!

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  28. Go Team Dude With a Problem! Yay! :)

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  29. I think I agree with Snyder's idea of their only being ten basic story lines/ categories. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Hmmm. . . I think my work in progress falls under the category "Rites of Passage", but It has a lot of "Golden Fleece" aspects.

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  30. My story's a Whydunit crossed with The Fool Triumphant and Superhero.

    Also, I love how Titanic's listed as a romantic comedy. What a funny, happy movie ;)

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    1. Titanic: that's exactly what I thought!!! Oh, why did Jack have to die?!?! :''''(

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    2. Yeah, that is funny. But if you study the plot, if follows the formula of a tragic romance.

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  31. Hee-hee. I totally know what the story I completly reworked and started over yesterday was- Dude with a Problem- but now? It's got a little bit of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 9. Yikes!

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  32. Golden fleece and dude with a problem combined, only the dude is a girl... :)

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  33. Both my current stories are Rites of Passage.

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  34. My WIP is the Golden Fleece category. My characters are: a girl who thinks she's worthless, and a guy who thinks he's the man. They both realise that they're wrong. :) Thanks for this, Stephanie!

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  35. In the barest form it's a Golden Fleece but adding more complexity it becomes an Institutionalized and Monster in the House with a drastic twist.

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  36. I'm working on a play right now which is cleary in the passage rites category, as it follows two friends on the night they commit suicide together while they discuss friendship, love and death.

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  37. Mine's Rite of Passage with Budddy Love :)

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  38. My novel falls in the Rites of Passage category.

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  39. Mine could probably be considered a mixture of 'Out of the Bottle' and 'Rites of Passage'.

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  40. Mine is probably the 'Golden Fleece.'

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  41. Haha, my book (and most I write) is Dude With a Problem. I actually love reading these too, if they are written well, because they can be just as funny as they can be serious. They can be epic, or funny, or inspiring. I really like them, honestly.

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  42. I think a book portion of mine fit into Superhero. XD I'm a sucker for superhero stories lol.

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  43. This was really interesting! I guess right now I'm working on a Rites of Passage story (my story is SO different from Napoleon Dynamite, which is in that category, although I do love that movie!)

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  44. This was really cool to read. I think my story would be a mix of Golden Fleece and Dude With a Problem.It's really hard to determine which it is more of because she discovers more about herself on her journey yet is a rather ordinary person that everyone is looking up to, to save their world.

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  45. Mine tend to be a cross between 2 and 10. I LOVE good, old-fashioned questing and superheroes.

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  46. Wow, I think mine might be a mix of 4 different ones!! Golden Fleece, Dude with a Problem, Rites of Passage, and Institutionalized.

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  47. I'm pretty sure I just entered twice because I couldn't figure out how to comment... :/
    I'm thinking Golden Fleece is my story.

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  48. Mine is a two, both Monster in the House, and buddy love. The monsters are in love, and I can't call it strictly a buddy Love, but neither can I dub it as just a Monster/Horror novel.

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  49. Hmmmmm.... I'd say mine is a Dude with A Problem.
    Thanks for the post Jill!!!

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  50. I think mine is Institutionalized. This is a great post!

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  51. Looking at my story it seems to fall into Whydunit. They usually do. I need to learn how to right outside the box for a change. :)

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  52. I think my story falls under Golden Fleece, Whodunnit and Out of the Bottle. Oh, and Buddy Love too. Oh, and, um, also Superhero. Hehe!

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  53. Huh. What an interesting concept. Mine doesn't exactly fit into any, but I'd say it's closest to out of the bottle with a dash of golden fleece.

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  54. My WIP Escaping Wonderland is definitely Golden Fleece. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  55. Mine WIP is definitely 'Dude with a Problem'.

    This post reminds me of the Seven Basic Plots I read about in 'Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write' by Victoria Hanley.

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    1. Oops, I meant My* WIP is definitely 'Dude with a Problem'.

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  56. I'm not sure what my main WIP is ... I'm leaning towards a mix of the first two. The first half of the book, the main character is looking for her lost memories (because after she lost her imagination, her memories of having the imagination disappeared, too) but the whole time, she's working to get rid of a monster that has been eating her imaginary world, she simply is at an impasse until she has those memories.

    Question, though - where would books like the Lord of the Rings fall - the epic battles?

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    1. I think Lord of the Rings would be Golden Fleece. Same with The Hobbit.

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    2. It might also be Institutionalized.

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    3. From Amo Libros:
      I'd say Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit fall mainly under Golden Fleece (both have a "quest" as there center: one to destroy a ring and save the world, the other to recover a treasure), although they could both fall under "Dude with a Problem" as well.

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    4. From Amo Libros:
      *their ;)

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    5. Yeah, Lord of the Ring is a Golden Fleece story. If you're ever curious, you can Google things like "Blake Snyder beat sheet for Lord of the Rings" and see what comes up. The beat sheet is something else cool from the books. And most of the ones you'll find online weren't written by him. But it can be fun to see how people have broken down different films.

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  57. Mine is Institutionalized, with some Buddy Love. At least I think it's Institutionalized. In my story, there is a rebellion, but my protagonist is kind of involved in it against her will. She supports the idea, but doesn't want to be involved in it directly. Is that institutionalized?

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    1. Institutionalized plots are sort of like a mob mentality thing. Yeah, there might be one or two main characters, but the story is about the group of people. In Mona Lisa Smile, it's about all those girls in Julia Robert's class. Can that entire group change? Or will the group remain the same?

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  58. I'm pretty sure mine would be golden fleece!Love this list.

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  59. mine would be superhero! this is such a cool way of thinking about writing!!!! I love it!

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  60. My story would go under the "Golden Fleece" category.
    Thanks for the post!

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  61. In my various scribblings I have written Rites of Passage, Golden Fleece, Out of the Bottle, and Whydunit. I think my wip is an Out of the Bottle.

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  62. Interesting post! I think my last NaNo would be a mix of Out of the Bottle, Dude with a Problem, Riet of Passage, with a little Whydunit mixed in. The story I'm writing to finish up 100-for100 is so far a Whydunit, though I'm entirely pantsing it, so I'm not sure where it's going to end yet

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  63. I think one of mine is a mix of Rites of Passage, Out of the Bottle and A Fool Triumphant. The other one is definitely Institutionalized and Golden Fleece.

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  64. Great post! I keep hearing good things about this book. I think mine is Institutionalized. I realized after reading this that I really like stories with good group dynamics.

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  65. My story is kind of an odd ball. It can be classified as all of them except for the fool triumphant and the superhero.

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  66. I don't know where my story would fall into, still in the planning phase, but I think this book could help!

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  67. The one I'm about to write is a Golden Fleece story I suppose. The heroine ends up on a journey, anyway. Whether my goal counts as quest, or just an escape, I don't know. It could probably also count as a Rite-Of-Passage, since my heroine is 18 years old.

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  68. What an intriguing concept! Must stew on this.

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  69. Golden Fleece, I think. A lady sets off to kill a dragon to save her dad, and in the process wins the option of having the life she's always wanted.

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  70. Having read Syner's book only 50% of his opinions ring true. Don't get hung up on these story models every story is basically the same the hero wants/needs something must change to get it and overcome the obstacles in the way:

    Jaws - Sheriff wants to rid town of shark, must overcome fear of water and town officials wanting beach to remain open.
    Star Wars - Farm boy wants to rescue a princess, must become a warrior and defeat an evil empire.
    Outbreak - Scientist wants to cure diesese, must find source of outbreak and prevent army blowing everyone up.
    Die Hard - Cop wants to spend Christmas with his wife, must defeat terrorists and prevent wife getting killed.
    The Lord of the Rings - Hobbit wants to destroy ring, must not succumb to the rings power to save the land.

    These are all different models/genres but follow the same basic structure.

    Hero must overcome obstacles ( physical and mental) to achieve goal. This is the basis of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey which works for any genre.

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  71. Mine would be Superhero and Out of the Bottle.

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