Monday, April 23, 2012

Maxey's Quadrilateral

Over at The Prophet & the Dragon, James Maxey (Greatshadow) lays out a quadripartite framework for creating various plots. Excerpt:
The other day, I was talking to someone about the types of books I wrote and I jokingly said my books were about interesting people doing interesting things. As if one would waste time writing about uninteresting people doing uninteresting things. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, actually, if you change the word 'uninteresting' to 'ordinary,' that second formula is also a perfectly valid approach to literature. One of my favorite books of all time, Winesburg, Ohio, is very much about ordinary people doing ordinary things. The same is true of the novel Things Fall Apart. While it's about an unfamiliar culture to most Americans, most of the book documents a very average member of that culture immersed in a typical life.

This line of thought led me to envision the chart at the end of this essay. This is definitely evidence I've sat through too many corporate presentations! Still, I thought it might be useful for other writers.
Read the whole thing. Maxey may joke about his framework's seemingly corporate roots. In reality, though, it feels much more like a handy distillation of archetypal literary theory. Roughly categorizing events and characters as either "ordinary" or "exceptional" provides a good starting place when all you've got is a blank page.

(Picture: CC 2005 by Genista)

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