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Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Classic Plots

According to these sources (Shelley Munro, Prairie Chicks Write Romance, and Houston Area Romance Authors), there are only twenty basic plot lines for romance stories.

1. Secret Baby
2. Cinderella (rags to riches)
3. Opposites Attract
4. Bodyguard
5. Second chance/First love rekindled
6. Reunion
7. Stranded
8. Love Triangle
9. Marriage of Convenience (mail-order bride)
10. Beauty and the Beast
11. Sleeping Beauty/Ugly duckling
12. Amnesia
13. Fish out of water
14. Blackmail/Revenge
15. Forbidden love
16. Mentor/protégé (boss/employee)
17. Princess/Pauper; King/Beggar maid
18. Bad boy/good girl; Bad girl/good boy
19. Best Friends
20. The Road to Adventure

To me, that's simply amazing. There are thousands upon thousands of romance stories out there, and they can all be sorted into twenty styles. But when I begin to think about it, I can actually fit every story I've read and written into at least one of these categories.

My debut novel mixes number three and thirteen with a dash of fifteen for taste. The second book I have coming out combines three (geesh I must like watching opposites get it on, huh) with some nine and seventeen, while the third book is all about one and five. My fourth book...uh oh. I can't find a number to fit that one under (GASP).

I had to pull up the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books list of basic romance plots to find a category for my fourth book.

Here's their take on the basic romance plot lines:

1. [wo]man vs. big misunderstanding
2. [wo]man vs. evil parents and conniving relatives
3. [wo]man vs. evil fiancé(e)
4. [wo]man vs. disparities in social standing
5. [wo]man vs. big secret (often, but not always, a baby)
6. [wo]man vs. massive sexual or physical trauma
7. [wo]man vs. trivial trauma that’s hyped up to appear much more serious than it is (OH MY GOD MY MOM WAS A COLD-HEARTED SLUT WAH WAH WAHHHHHHHHHH I WILL NOW HATE ANYTHING BEARING A VAGINA being a classic for many heroes)
8. [wo]man vs. emotionally constipated man
9. [wo]man vs. angsty undead or lunarly-hairy version of any of the above
10. [wo]man vs. high-powered/high-status male embracing all gender stereotypes and phallocentric expectations of women
11. [wo]man vs. serial killer who ends up wanting to rape and/or kill and/or eat the heroine, because the heroine, she is one tasty bitch
12. [wo]man vs. historically inappropriate urges to break free of societal mold by marrying… socially proper man (*note: can apply to gay romances as well as hetero romances)

From this list, my fourth story fits into numbers two and eight.

So, now I'm curious. Which list do you agree with more? And is there any missing plots you can come up with? I'm thinking interfering families needs to be in there somewhere for some Romeo/Juliet action, though I guess that story could slip into the forbidden romance theme.

Hmm. What say you all?


Tina Donahue said...

Thanks for this post, Linda - I'd never really thought about all the basic plots. This is handy to have and fun to see how many of these my plots match. :)

April Ash said...

I'd have to say a combination of both lists would fit books today. While the first one smacks of category, it's still used with twists that make a book more marketable with readers wanting MORE than the same old plot.

Katalina Leon said...

The first list is hilarious. To even suggest there are only 20 possible plot lines in a woman's life and these are "it", is absolutely ridiculous! That woman must live in a continual state of shock as the world unfurls around her. "Oh dear, I didn't see that coming..." lol
According to that list we've all suffered through amnesia and awakened from a coma only to discover we are pregnant with our billionaire boss' love child who can't be with us at this emotionally tender time because he is really an undercover CIA agent posing as a rodeo rough rider on the lookout for plutonium smuggling werewolves in Paris... lol

jean hart stewart said...

I enjoyed reading both lists. I don't know that I've ever consciously tried to type my plots like that, but it's fun to think aboutl. Kat, your comments are hysterical.....Jean

Katalina Leon said...

Thank you Jean!
I feel so resistant when I see women lives' and women's interests being pigeon holed. We're bigger and better than that!

Anonymous said...

It is no use crying over spilt milk.......................................................

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