The Seven Point Plot Skeleton

Teresa Edgerton

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#1
The Seven Point Plot came up in another thread, where it elicited some interest and questions. I just knew I had it filed away somewhere, and since Kathy has a fair few questions to wade through before she'll have the time to explain it further, I finally summoned up the energy for a search through my files.

And, in fact, I found three different versions.

The first one seems to be attributed to the late Scott Meredith, a very high- profile literary agent in his time, but there is a question mark after his name, and I have no idea why I put it there. So here is what Scott Meredith (or someone) had to say:

a protagonist (1) has a problem (2) and endeavors to solve it (3)
but meets with difficulties (4) whereupon he learns something (5)
which enables him to make another attempt (6)
leading to a resolution (7)

The second version is from Algis Budrys (and is probably the one recommended here by K. D. Wentworth):

(1) a character (2) in context (3) with a problem
(4)which the character tries to solve
(5) only to experience unexpected failure
(6) followed by either victory or defeat, leaving a need for (7) validation

Version number three is entitled "The Seven Basic Steps of Human Action" by John Truby (according to a quick search at Google, he teaches screenwriting):

1) a problem or need affecting the hero
2) desire (what the hero wants)
3) an opponent (someone competing for the same goal as the protagonist)
4) a plan (for overcoming the opponent and achieving success)
5) battle (a final conflict which determines which of them attains the goal
6) self-revelation (a fundamental understanding the hero gains, which in some way fulfills the original need)
7) a new equilibrium (the conflict resolved, the world goes on, but with the hero at a higher or lower point than before)

Personally, I have a little problem with 3) here, since the antagonist could just as easily be working against the protagonist without necessarily competing for the same thing. And need there be an antagonist at all? Couldn't the hero be simply struggling against a set of circumstances?
 

Mark Robson

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#2
Thank you, Kelpie. You have no doubt saved me considerable research time. :)

I can now empathise with the proposed structure, and there is no doubt that many novels follow this sort of profile, but I think there is always room to break from the norm. There are doubtless many novels that do not follow this pattern, some of which have been very successful. I have to admit, however, that I have instinctively followed this sort of general outline without ever having heard of the seven point plot before.
 
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Brian G Turner

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#3
It reminds me of the W diagram I once saw years ago in a "how to write" book - seems a similar graphical way of illustrating it in 5 points, which emphasises the need for the protagonist to be hit by a fall, before finally overcoming it to "triumph" at the end.

I guess I should make a point that triumph may be read better as "resolves original problem established at the start", which may have its costs to the protagonist.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#5
Paige Turner said:
Well, this COMPLETELY shoots down my "Two-Headed Blind Calf of Screenwriting" model.
It would have been useless for you to post it here in any case, Paige. By what I've seen on TV and at the movies lately, many writers seem to figure that one out on their own.
 

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