Plots, part 3

The Hero’s Journey (aka classic plot, archplot structure, etc) is popular yet also complicated. Everyone has a slightly different idea on what each part should be. There are general ideas, sure, and the specifics differ.

“[Archplot is a goal-oriented plot where] for better or worse, an event throws a character’s life out of balance, arousing in him the conscious and/or unconscious desire for that which he feels will restore balance, launching him on a Quest for his Object of Desire against forces of antagonism (inner, personal, extrapersonal). He may or may not achieve it.” – McKee

Billy Wilder has a really simplified view:

  • Act I: put the character up in a tree
  • Act II: set the tree on fire
  • Act III: get your character down

I’ll start with Christopher Vogler’s take.

The general plot:

Act I – The Ordinary World (beginning: 25%)

  • Ordinary world
  • Call to adventure
  • Refusal
  • Meet the mentor
  • Crossing the threshold (transition to act 2)

Act II – The Special World (middle: 50% of the story)

  • Tests, allies, enemies
  • Approach to Inmost cave
  • Ordeal (midpoint)
  • Reward – “seizing the sword”
  • The road back (transition to act 3)

Act III – The Ordinary World (end: 25%)

  • Resurrection
  • Return with the elixir

The general character arc:

Act I – The Ordinary World

  • Limited awareness
  • Increased awareness
  • Reluctance to change
  • Overcoming
  • Committing (transition to act 2)

Act II – The Other World

  • Experimenting
  • Preparing
  • Big change (midpoint)
  • Consequences
  • Rededication (transition to act 3)

Act III – The Ordinary World

  • Final attempt
  • Mastery

And here’s a random semi-related chart I found somewhere a long time ago.