Wednesday, September 2, 2009

5 Favorite Plot Devices

With thousands to choose from, it’s hard to pick a plot device and call it a favorite, but today I want to talk about five plot devices that I have a hard time passing up. I won’t say that I read every story I find with these plot devices, but base your story around one of these and you’ll be a whole lot closer to convincing me to buy your book.

Secret Identity

You know these stories. There is Superman, Cinderella, spy stories, undercover cops and Hannah Montana. What can I say? These stories are everywhere. They even show up in the Bible. Abraham tried to pass his wife off as his sister. Tamar once played the part of a harlot to get pregnant by her father-in-law, Judah. There’s just something I find interesting about stories where people pretend to be people they are not and as popular as some of them are, I think other people must too. I figure it has something to do with the inherent conflict in the story.

Premature Marriage

When a couple get married before they fall in love, what else can it be but a premature marriage? Aside from arranged marriages and marriages of convenience, we don’t expect to see this happen in real life, but there are plenty of fictional situations that we can create where it happens. I once read a story where a spy showed up at a wedding in disguise and somehow managed to get married because he couldn’t reveal his true identity. It was too far fetched for real life, but it made for an interesting read.

Mother by Choice

I also enjoy adoption stories. The Little Orphan Annie story is a classic example. Oliver Twist is another. Though, in both of these cases it is more of a father by choice. Search for Mom also falls into this category. What I like about this plot device is that it reveals love. Most mothers love their children, so there’s nothing special about that. We take that for granted, but when a woman (or man) chooses to love a child as her own, even when she doesn’t have to, that is something extra special.

Parent and Child Reunited

A child walks up the steps to a house and rings the doorbell. “I think you’re my mother,” he says to the woman who answers the door. Even though it usually means someone was doing something he or she shouldn’t, I love stories like that. What makes these stories is that there is some strong reason for the people involved to come together while there is also a very good reason they should stay apart. Once the cat’s out of the bag, decisions have to be made about how to resolve the issue because there’s no way for things to go back the way they were before.

The Magic Portal

When an ordinary person steps through a door and finds himself in an unusual world, I’m there. Or when someone from another world steps through a door and finds himself in ours, I’m there. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, not to mention the Wizard of Oz, are well known examples.